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How Droupadi Murmu became the ‘people’s Governor’ in Jharkhand

While she did host many people from her home state, her primary commitment was to the people of Jharkhand. And she met people from all walks of life. ‘A Governor is rarely seen. But she was an exception. She went out of her way to see people and in turn be seen by them,’ says former top bureaucrat Tubid. ‘She would listen to the problems and grievances with rapt attention and do the best she could to sort their issues out. Sometimes, people didn’t even need to see her to get their problems solved. She would hear about or read about someone in distress in the newspapers and then seek him or her out to provide succour.’

Stories of her compassion and benevolence are legends. There was this poor, differently abled tribal woman named Luguni Munda, who had been kidnapped and kept in captivity by Maoists before being impregnated and abandoned by them. She gave birth to a baby and was in dire straits when Murmu read about her in the newspapers. Murmu invited the woman to the Raj Bhavan, who walked in on crutches carrying her baby in her lap. After patiently listening to her tragic story, she went out of her way to help the woman in every possible way. At her initiative, Luguni was given a ration card, a house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) and a tube well to boot. She made arrangements for her son, when he grew up, to be admitted to the missionary-run Loyola School in Chaira, near Dalbhumgarh, and sanctioned money from the Governor’s discretionary funds for payment of his tuition and hostel fees up to Class X. On special occasions like Diwali, she would have new clothes and sweets sent over to the mother-son duo, at her own expense, through the local Block Development Officer (BDO).

On another occasion, she came across a news about a poor daily wage labourer of Margo Munda village in Madhupur district who could not afford to get his son, who had qualified in the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), the common all-India test for engineering courses, admitted to the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Jamshedpur, due to his poverty. Murmu asked her private secretary J.P. Dash to check the veracity of the story from the local BDO. When she was convinced that the story was true, she immediately got an amount of Rs 65,000 from her discretionary funds transferred to the account of the man for his son to be admitted to NIT, Jamshedpur.

Her former principal secretary Santosh Satapathy recalls an incident where Governor Murmu helped a poor rickshaw-puller, whose wife had four successive miscarriages, have a baby. ‘She roped in well-known gynecologist Dr Shobha for the purpose. The woman was under her treatment for about six months during which the Governor sanctioned an amount of Rs 6000 from her discretionary funds for medicines. Due to the personal care and attention of Dr Shobha, the woman delivered a healthy baby, who is now a year and a half old and is doing fine. She even named the child “Rudra”,’ he says.

As Governor, Murmu would take stock of the day’s happenings around the state every evening and decide if any matter needed her personal attention or intervention. She would be constantly on the lookout for anyone in distress and put her Rs 20 lakh discretionary funds to good use to provide succour to them.

During her tenure as Governor of Jharkhand, the Raj Bhavan in Ranchi got a complete makeover. A person who loved nature, she got a reservoir constructed inside the Raj Bhavan and oversaw the plantation of nearly 3000 fruit-bearing trees within the premises. Vegetables and flowers were also grown on a fairly large scale making the Raj Bhavan self-sufficient in these items. There was also a cowshed in the premises which used to take care of the milk requirements of the Raj Bhavan. Saal trees lined up the outer periphery of the Raj Bhavan.

This excerpt from Sandeep Sahu’s ‘Madam President’ has been published with permission from Penguin India.

Source: The Print

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