Legislator who died in penury cremated unsung

Lucknow, July 12 (IANS) Felicitated only months ago by the Who's Who of Uttar Pradesh on the 125th anniversary of the state assembly, two-time legislator Bhagvati Prasad was Thursday cremated with just a handful in attendance.

No official represented the state government. Even wood for the last rites was not available as the family of the late Jana Sangh legislator -- who was respected for his honesty -- is battling penury.

His sons and family had to pick up wood pieces from the road side and cut some dead trees on the Madar-Ikauna road to set the funeral pyre.

Asked to comment, district officials said they were busy and that a Nayab Tehsildar was sent after the funeral to "gather a report".

For a man who was in the legislative assembly twice, in 1967 and 1969, representing Ikauna in Bahraich district, death could not have come as a bigger humiliation.

The two legislators who now represent the now bifurcated Ikauna, Indrani Devi from Bhinga and Mohammad Ramzan from Shrawasti, were also absent at the cremation. They read about the death in newspapers.

Bhagvati Prasad was revered for his honesty and simple living. Surviving on frugal monthly pension as a former legislator, he even sold peanuts and tea in the last few years to make two ends meet.

"My father never lost his self respect and told us to work hard and not to be disheartened by tough times," his elder son Radhe Shyam told IANS.

He said his father fought the first assembly election with Rs.1,600.

"To get that money, my father sold a buffalo for Rs.1,800 and kept Rs.200 for the family."

Earlier, Bhagvati Prasad was spotted lying on the floor outside the district hospital in Bahraich awaiting attention of doctors.

With great difficulty and after a lot of persuasion, the dying man got a bed at the hospital. But treatment never came his way, his family said. Death came late Wednesday.

"No one recognized him, no one came forward to help, and doctors would not listen to our pleas that treatment was falling short despite his serious condition," Radhe Shyam said.

As news of the apathy found space in the local media, some leaders issued statements that they would help. But nothing happened.

Vijay Bahadur Pathak, state spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Jana Sangh's successor, rued the apathy of the political class.

"This is very sad. The fact that the government has still not woken up is even more heart breaking," he said.

In August 2009, 80-year-old Prema Devi, widow of two-time Jana Sangh legislator Sural Lal Gupta, was seen begging outside the district hospital in Gonda, about 200 km from the state capital Lucknow.

Her husband was considered close to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a Jana Sangh star who later went on to become the prime minister.

Her son turned his back on her. With no major property or funds left behind by her husband, she resorted to seeking alms.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)