Light of Arunachal has gone out

By Pradeep Kumar

The very name Kalikho Pul reminds me of his command over mathematics for which I had named his as mathematical wizard. But his voice ‘Dada bungalow mein aao’ three to four times every week still rings in my ear. I knew his life’s chemistry well.

One of the longest serving finance minister of India, he had impressed upon even then deputy prime minister L K Advani so much to take is name twice in his public address at Itanagar twice. After presenting budget he would explain the nifty gritty for hours and the members used to listen to him with pin drop silence and rapt attention. He was too much concerned about the financial health of the state but used to manage the state affairs with his expertise. Regrettably, the very mathematics intriguingly took his life.

HOW? Democracy was described by Abraham Lincoln, as “….that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. But the dirty game of India’s politics with the power-hungry politicians with “Might is right” formula have redefined Lincoln’s philosophy as “off the people, buy the people, far the people”, to suit their vested interests. This has become a common order of the day threatening the root of this time-tested system, but who cares?

With all his good intention Pul, who had represented Hayuliang seat for five times (in 1995, 1999, 2004, 2009 & 2014) as a Congress leader, took over as chief minister after a brief spell of President’s Rule. In late 2015, Pul broke away from the Congress party to become acting chief minister on 19.02.16, along with other rebel Congress politicians and his Govt was supported by opposition BJP. On 03.03.16 he along with 30 dissident Congress MLAs joined the PPA. As CM, Pul kept his official residence always open to poor for medical help. The Supreme Court dismissed Pul’s Govt in July 2016 by ruling out then Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa’s decision to form Pul’s Govt. But on 3rd day he had reportedly committed suicide by hanging himself in CM’s official bungalow two years ago on 09.08.2016 leaving behind a hand written 60-page booklets called Mere Vichar.

Pul’s wife, Dasanglu Pul had appealed to Supreme Court in February 2017 demanding an FIR to be registered and a CBI investigation be done in the case and had also approached Vice President of India for an independent probe by a special investigation team. Pul, who did not believe in God, once had said: “I don’t believe in god because had He been there, I wouldn’t have suffered.

Few of his milestones: Pul as planning & finance minister under the guidance of then CM Gegong Apang, had initiated “Massive infrastructure development plan in the offing” as I had highlighted on 09.06.06.

Kaho, a village along the Indo-China-Myanmar border, which could be reached through a day-long trekking from Kibithoo, has 24-hour power supply from a micro hydel project, while even the state capital Itanagar faces intermittent power cuts. Hydropower development department SE R K Joshi with the support of Pul and then DC P S Lokhande had scripted the Kaho success story by sheer determination and will power to prove—‘Where there is a will, there is a way’. It is now operated by the villagers, as I wrote turning odds into advantages to herald a Naya Savera on 20.02.07.

Pul had facilitated new Naya Savera to dawn on Anjaw, carved out of Lohit, with DC Lokhande assisted by able ADC R K Sharma (now Namsai DC) had launched massive awareness video-cum-demonstrative programme appealing to the masses ‘chodo kalki baaten, aaya hai Naya Savera, which aimed at inculcating the habit of consuming safe drinking water and sanitation practices for a healthy life.

Arunachal went for statehood early: Pul as finance minister was the first to comment “Arunachal Pradesh went for statehood early for political reasons” for the simple reason that the state Govt is now caught between the devil and the deep sea in meeting its employees’ demand to implement the 6th Pay Commission recommendations in toto wef 01-01-06. I had written on 12.12.08.

When Pul told a meeting of thousands of state Govt employees 10.12.18 that he had called on Union Finance Minister PC Chidambaram in September last with a plea for financial assistance to meet the liability of pay package – Rs 521.16 crore additional burden this year and Rs 893.61 crore next year (total Rs 1414.77 crore) – PC was surprised to know that the state has around 1 lakh employees @ 1:14 against the national average of 1:20,000. This means that one out of every 14 persons in Arunachal is a Govt employee, which is abnormally high.

In fact, the state Govt diverts around 47% of normal central assistance for all non-plan and non-developmental activities including salary and wages as against the 20% admissible by Planning Commission. This year’s plan allocation of Rs 2264.60 crore included Rs 761.18 crore NCA, which permits diversion of upto Rs 152.24 crore only.

Had the state been a union territory, all expenditure would have been borne even now by the Centre. But Arunachal not only went for statehood, it also adopted the central pay structure in 1997 for its failure to constitute its own pay commission even after a decade. In the absence of the state’s own resource as a UT, there would have been no need for loans – which amounts to Rs 3012 crore now, making Arunachal the 2nd highest loanee in India as per latest RBI report. This has cost the exchequer Rs 347.86 crore as debt servicing liability this year.

Claims and counter claims about the cause of his death and demand for CBI probe are all history now, but the man with a unique mission is gone. Like the first ray of the sun kisses India every morning at Dong, under Wallong circle, which had drew scientists from all over Indian to the spot to welcome the new millennium, Pul as the Light of Arunachal, has gone out carving a niche for himself in the hearts of every Arunachalee. Rest peacefully in your heavenly abode, my loving brother!

Pul – a mathematical wizard

Born on 20.07.1969 to a very poor family in Walla village of Hawai circle of Anjaw district, Kalikho Pul had lost his mother Koranlu when he was only 13-month-old and father Tailum died when he was around six-year-old. He lived with his aunt’s family and supported the family by collecting firewood. 10-year-old Pul left school to join carpentry course in Hawai Craft Centre with a daily stipend of Rs 1.5 besides working as a tutor. He joined night school on the advice of Hawaii Middle School headmaster Ram Naresh Prasad Sinha, who impressed with his progress admitted him to class-VI. He was chosen to deliver a welcome speech during the visit of then education minister Khapriso Krong and Lohit DC D S Negi. His eloquence carved a niche for him. Earning Rs 212 pm as Hawaii CO office watchman, running a paan shop, making bamboo fences and thatched houses, and building concrete structures to earn his livelihood, he later graduated in economics from Indira Gandhi College, Tezu and also studied law.

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