Bilaspur: Politics may be the surest way to prosperity for many, but Sardaru Ram – who served as a member of the Legislative Assembly in Himachal Pradesh in the late 50s – apparently didn’t think so. He lived a simple life, and died as a cobbler in penury. Later, his son, Meenu Ram, took up the cobbler’s job to feed himself and his family.
“I have been repairing shoes to earn our livelihood for nearly five decades. This is the only legacy my MLA father left us. There is no pension or government help,” says Meenu Ram alias Preetam. The 65-year-old earns a few hundred rupees daily by mending shoes at his makeshift shop in Bhaged Chowk in Bilaspur, 135 km from Shimla.
Preetam has two sons and two brothers, all four of whom work as daily wage labourers. The family lives in a mud house that Sardaru Ram built for them. Sardaru had reached the state Assembly in 1957 after winning from Teeun constituency (now Jhandoota).
After the completion of his term in 1962, he was left with no option to earn a livelihood except returning to his job as a cobbler, which he had left before contesting the election. He died in 1972 and handed over his occupation to his sons in the absence of any pension for families of MLAs.
The condition of the former MLA’s family is in stark contrast to today’s politicians and their dependents. Out of the total 68 MLAs in Himachal Pradesh, 44 are crorepatis. Brij Bihari Lal Butail, with assets worth Rs.169 crore, is the richest MLA in the state.