Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Life's like that

Last week I came across two contrasting news articles from China and India that had to do something with the subject of death arising out of two opposite issues - corruption and honesty. Let me relate the two incidents from China and India and leave it to the readers to ponder upon.
The first was a report from China that a Beijing court had sentenced Lui Zhijum, ex-railway minister of China, a suspended death sentence for corruption, bribery and abuse of power. Lui, who was the driving force behind China's ambitious $170 billion 10,000-km high speed rail track project expected to be completed by 2020, had accepted $10 million in bribes over two decades. The court also deprived him of his political rights for life and confiscated all his personal property.
Liu was found to be the main culprit behind the favour-for-bribe railway contracts that lead to an accident in the coastal city of Wenzhou in 2011 in which 40 people were killed. Public opinion turned against the rail project and media glare revealed Liu had 16 cars, 18 mistresses and over 350 flats and unaccounted cash stashed away. Suspended death sentences are usually commuted to life imprisonment, however, Liu's was one of the high-profile corruption cases in China in recent times.
So here was a news about a politician from China who got a suspended death sentence for corruption, bribery and abuse of power. The other news report from Bahraich (Uttar Pradesh), India, was about the death of Bhagauti Prasad, a two-time MLA from Econa reserved assembly constituency, who died almost unattended, uncared and in poverty at the Bahraich district hospital last Tuesday. In fact, his son, Radheshyam, did not have money to pay for the last rites of his father. The villagers came forward to arrange for the money for his funeral.
Bhagauti Prasad had won his seats in 1967 and 69 on Jan Sangh ticket. His honesty, integrity and uprightness was exemplary - a rarity among the politicians. Most of the MLAs from the region are said to be multi-millionaires who sport a flamboyant life style. Bhagauti was an odd man trying to eke out an honest living by selling tea and grams and struggling to make ends meet. However, he never compromised on his lofty ideals. He led a frugal life travelling in buses and trains.
Bhagauti Prasad, who was 70 years, breathed his last after prolonged illness. He was suffering from hernia and asthma and could not afford to meet his medical expenses. He died in poverty without any property or land for his family. The burden of poverty now hangs over his surviving family members.
In 2006 the then chief minister of UP, Mulayam Singh Yadav, on learning about Bhagauti, had arranged for Rs 1 lakh. Before his death, he wanted to meet Mulayam but his family did not have the money to travel to Lucknow. As he breathed his last at the district hospital, no political leader came forward to show any respect or solidarity. That was how an honest politician died in India.
I was struck by the sheer contrast and similarity of the two reports. On one hand a politician is condemned to death for corruption and abuse of power, a few thousand miles away in another country, another one actually dies in poverty and misery for leading an honest life and not compromising with his ideals till the last. Well, what to say, perhaps life's like that.

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