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Warsi’s different world

Patna, Nov. 22: Ram Ekbal Warsi lives in a utopian world where most politicians would fear to tread.

“I am still on the mission to liberate India from the clutches of corruption and poverty,” said the former soldier of Netaji’s Indian National Army, not oblivious of the fact that most politicians now contest elections to “make money”.

The octogenarian and former Piro MLA in Rohtas does not accept the pensions that he is entitled to as a freedom fighter or as a legislator.

“Accepting pension for trying to liberate one’s home is a sin. And taking pension for serving people, as their elected representative, is a bigger sin,” Warsi said.

Driven out of home for his “impractical” way of living, he carries on his “mission to liberate India” from the clutches of corruption and poverty from his ramshackle home. “Netaji said that real freedom lies in people’s liberation from poverty.”

Reverentially referred to as the “Gandhi of Piro”, Warsi left his job as a manual labourer in Rohtas Group of Industries in 1938 and jumped into the freedom movement. He joined the INA in 1943 when Netaji visited Dehri, Warsi’s hometown.

It is not that Warsi does not have food to eat. Still revered, he finds neighbours more than willing to provide him a square meal. But, he accepts the invitation on a rigid precondition that he will eat at the home of the one who will allow the old man to wash the utensils of the whole family.

“It is a crime to accept any free service or food,” Warsi reasoned.

In his late eighties, the man is far from the retirement age. He brings out what he describes as a newspaper which he writes. Activists circulate it by photocopying its pages.

In its latest issue, the newspaper has made just one request to the politicians, Prime Minister and President — to cut down on their salaries and not accept pension.

In 1969, Warsi contested from Piro on a Socialist Party ticket and won. His co-villager, Kamlesh Kumar, also a scribe with a vernacular daily, recalled that Warsi had campaigned on a bicycle requesting people to cast a vote and give him a rupee each to which the voters obliged. “But I found the Assembly full of representatives who were corrupt,” Warsi says. He never contested polls after 1969.

It is not that the leaders had not approached him for contesting polls.

Aware that Warsi — given his acceptance in the region might be a sure winner — Lalu Prasad sent his former cabinet colleague Kanti Singh to convince Warsi.

Chunav ladne mein paisa kharch hota hai. Paisa par chunao main nahi lad sakta (Contesting polls incurs expense. I do not want to contest the poll subjected to money),” Warsi tersely replied then.

Sources close to Nitish Kumar revealed that the chief minister too wished Warsi to contest the polls from his party. But he knew that the veteran freedom fighter would refuse his overture.

At present, Warsi lives in a ramshackle structure in Mathurapuri colony in Rohtas’s Dalmianagar. His impoverished family have refused to take care of him.

His two sons — Shailendra and Arbind — are unemployed and are barely able to get two square meals a day.

“Dadaji, please accept the pensions that you entitled to so that I can study,” his grandson Guddu, 13, a Class VIII student, recently wrote and requested Warsi. The extraordinary man wished the grandson all success, but remained firm on his stand.

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