Jairam Ramesh and Bharti Kashyap with children at Run For Vision in Ranchi on Thursday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Sept. 12: Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, who has earned the sobriquet of being the most famous non-resident Jharkhandi, proved on Thursday that he wasn’t merely the Centre’s frequent-flier celebrity.
Ramesh pledged his corneas to Kashyap Memorial Eye Bank, Ranchi, and announced he wanted to be cremated at Saranda, the venue of his first holistic development plan for Jharkhand.
Ramesh, easily one of India’s most educated politicians with degrees from IIT-Bombay, Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology under his belt, is known more for sparkling wit than sentiment. But the minister unabashedly wore his “love for Jharkhand” on his sleeve in his 20-minute address at the Purulia Road eye hospital.
“Today, I have pledged my corneas with Kashyap Memorial Eye Bank, Ranchi, so that I can lend a helping hand to some one in the dark in Jharkhand when I am no more. It is my desire that, after my demise, my body be consigned to the flames at Saranda in Chaibasa, Jharkhand,” Ramesh said to loud and spontaneous applause.
The trademark wit was soon back in place.
The minister, who filled up the membership form of the hospital’s Eye Donors’ Club, apologised for not having Rs 200 on him to shell out as membership fee. Instead, he asked hospital director Bharti Kashyap to pay up on his behalf. “I am a BPL minister. I will never get an opportunity to become a minister in Jharkhand,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.
No one missed the dig.
Kashyap Memorial Eye Bank, Ranchi, which had held eye camps in Saranda and Latehar in January and August, had invited chief secretary R.S. Sharma, health secretary S. Satpathy, representatives from Indian Medical Association and trade and industry bodies as well as 200 children from Latehar. The hospital gifted a pair of spectacles each to the children.
In his address, Ramesh cited malaria, malnutrition and lack of sanitation as the state’s health challenges.
“Most villagers can’t access proper and hygienic toilets. I have asked chief minister (Hemant Soren) and health minister (Rajendra Prasad Singh) to draw up an action plan and present it to Union health minister Gulam Nabi Azad when he visits Ranchi on September 23,” Ramesh said.
Under National Rural Health Mission, the Centre grants between Rs 650-700 crore a year to Jharkhand to improve healthcare delivery systems. “Jharkhand has not been able to spend more than Rs 400 crore,” Ramesh pointed out.
He also spoke on the “urgent need” to open up more medical and nursing colleges.
Earlier in the day, the Union minister flagged off Run For Vision 2013 at Ursuline Convent on Purulia Road to spread awareness on corneal donations, in which hundreds of schoolchildren, members of Indian Medical Association, Ranchi chapter, trade and industry representatives and social workers took part.
Ramesh broke into a half-jog, half-trot, the brisk pace of which he kept up to 500 metres from Ursuline Convent to the eye hospital accompanied by drummers of Mukund Naik’s musical troupe.