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Friday, 4 November 2011

IIT hostel friends pool money to bail out 'Kejri'

Arvind Kejriwal, Magsaysay winner and mastermind of Anna Hazare's anti corruption movement, can now leave behind the controversy surrounding his dues worth over Rs nine lakh to the Indian Revenue Service, where he was an employee.

Five former hostel mates from IIT Kharagpur, which includes this year's Magsaysay awardee and social entrepreneur Harish Hande and a former colleague, pooled money to help their old friend 'Kejri' in his difficult time. “We pooled in money to help him out. One of our hostel friends suggested and we all started pitching in,”said Hande.

“We were particular that it should be from the hostel guys and not from any outside sources, to ensure that we all had PAN numbers and other details — so that there is no trouble after that,’’ says Hande, who has built a movement of solar electric power in hundreds of villages in South India and Gujarat, providing employment and power at the same time. Kejriwal today sent a cheque of Rs 9,27,787 along with a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him not to “trouble” his six friends, including Magsaysay winner Harish Hande, who had given him an interest-free loan to settle his dues. Government has claimed that the 43 year old activist had violated bond rules by quitting his job before completing three years of service, after going on a study leave on full pay. However, Kejriwal said he quit after serving bond conditions. Recalling old times with friend Rs Kejri' who was a year senior to him in IIT Kharagpur and lived in the room below his, Hande says that they used to debate whether poverty or corruption was the bigger problem.''

"Kejri always maintained that corruption was the greater evil. I said that if poverty was removed, corruption would go on its own.'' Hande laughs at the coincidence that both friends managed to tread their chosen path. Kejriwal's own affection and concern for his friends is evident in his letter to the Prime Minister, in which he pleads that the Government should not harass his friends, who have helped him with interest free loan to pay his dues to IRS.

Hande denies that Kejriwal is arrogant or intolerant though he can get carried away like the way he did at Hissar. He used to lock himself inside the hostel room to prepare for exams, recalls Hande. “He used to rag me when I came in the first year, but during the remaining three years, I used to rag him. I have more ammunition against him than Digvijay Singh does, he says laughing.

He adds, Kejriwal is cushioned from the attacks of politicians by his friends from IIT. “We have a good support system, When it gets really vicious we call him and ask him to relax,”.

Meanwhile, Kejriwal while returning the money insisted that he was doing so in protest and, it did not mean he has accepted any mistake. “I am returning the dues in protest. I appeal to you to instruct the Finance Ministry to accept my resignation. Once it is accepted, I retain my right to approach the court to reclaim the dues," he said in the four-page letter.

He said that many people had offered him money but, he did not take it as it may be construed as "misusing" the anti-corruption movement. "That is why I took the loan from people whom I know for years. The whole government machinery is after Team Anna. I appeal you with folded hands that your government should not trouble those people who have loaned me money," Kejriwal said.


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