Pul's 'Vichaar' Falls Between Two Stones
ITANAGAR: The 60-page ‘diary’purportedly written by former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister, late Kalikho Pul, --parts of which were revealed by a news portal recently---is revealing.
Entitled ‘Mere Vichaar’ or My Thoughts, it begins by telling how Pul was born into the most difficult of circumstances, having never received the love of his parents and a family since he was orphaned at a young age. From then on, we learn about the rise of what was to become the Kalikho Pul we came to know (if it is indeed written by him).
“When I was attending day school, between Class VI and VIII, I took up casual employment, studying during the day and working as a chowkidar at night. The job required me to raise the national flag at 5 am and lower it at 5 pm,” it reads.
It’s a familiar tale of an underdog fighting the odds, tinged with a touch of patriotism. The real rise though, happens in the next part when we are told that in his first job as a contractor, he built an OBT house for Rs 400. As soon we are presented with this information, the continuing line says “…after which I built many roads, government housing and bridges” without getting into the details of how he landed those contracts. There is, it must be admitted, an information gap especially considering the fact that parts dedicated to other politicians and their financial dealings are otherwise meticulously noted.
Before getting to the part where accusations of corruption and graft are made against the current crop of politicians, we learn that the writer had become a crorepati before becoming an MLA (in 1995). He was also earning Rs 46 lakh annually from a saw-cum-veneer mill. He goes on to write that he had surrendered his two trading licenses on December 27, 1994, a day after joining politics. This should, logically mean that he had also ‘surrendered’ operations of the saw-cum-veneer mill which was earning him Rs 46 lakh annually. Whether it was passed on to a family member or someone else is not mentioned.
Para 7.1 states that by the time he reached college he had a small RCC house with three rooms to which not a single room has since been added. While it is not mentioned where this house is, it can be assumed that it is at Tezu where he studied. Additionally, during the 90s, he had a small house in Khupa and one in Hayuliang in Anjaw district, both built from money taken as loan from banks. That would put the number of houses to three. However, as per his affidavit filed for the 2014 Assembly election, he owned one more residential building at Hawai, which finds no mention in Mere Vichaar.
Additionally, when the affidavit was filed he also owned a commercial building at Itanagar worth Rs 53 lakh apart from various other plots and buildings that were either in his wives’ and children’s names.
His total declared assets, including cash, at the time of the 2014 elections was over Rs 4 crore which is lesser than those whom he blamed for corruption in Arunachal Pradesh- chief minister Pema Khandu (Rs 129 crore), deputy chief minister Chowna Mein (Rs 27 crore) and former chief minister Nabam Tuki (Rs 11 crore).
There are others such as Palin MLA Takam Pario and Bameng MLA Kumar Waii who too had higher declared assets in 2014 but have not been named in Mere Vichaar. His mentor in the early years who paved the road open for Pul’s electoral politics and who helmed at the political affairs of Arunachal, former chief minister Gegong Apang, who found himself as a central figure in the Rs 1000-crore PDS scam in 2010 has been given a free chit in Mere Vichaar too.
So what is the purpose of this article? Is it to dismiss the allegations that have been made in the diary? Is it to malign the memory of a leader who was vocally loved by many people? The answer is that it is neither. The point of this article is to help provide a measured perspective to readers.
Whatever the contents of Mere Vichaar, if indeed it was written by late Kalikho Pul, were from his perspective. Whether a handful of people alone are to be blamed for the current state of affairs is a matter of opinion. He placed his.
What should have been the central focus of the diary, were it ever meant for the public, should have been the immediate concerns and allegations of corruption which need to be investigated. If indeed the judiciary in the country has been corrupted in the manner that it has been described, it is a matter of serious concern.
The greatest failure that marks most autobiographies is that they attempt to paint the author as godly figures; someone free from any faults that make humans human. Man however, is not free from faults and the admittance that the subject of an autobiography too can commit mistakes is what makes them compelling reads. Then again, ‘Mere Vichaar’ is not an autobiography.