Garhshankar (Hoshiarpur, Punjab): As pre-monsoon showers hit Garhshankar town in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district, Shingara Ram Shahunggra and his family start looking for tarpaulin sheets to cover their belongings lying by the side of the road. As the family settles down under the sheets on iron cots put on wet earth, it is difficult to imagine that Shahunggra had been a BSP MLA from Punjab, not one but twice!
The family had been living illegally in an irrigation department house for the past few years. The government finally decided to evict him on Sunday, making him perhaps the only ex-MLA in a rich state like Punjab who never built a fancy house for himself in all these years.
“I am looking for a place to rent with my meagre MLA pension of Rs 20,000 a month, but till then I will be living under the skies,” he says, even as his wife starts making chapattis on the footpath, her kitchen for the time being. Their two sons help out in the cooking. The family uses the washrooms of one of their neighbours.
Interestingly, Shahunggra was MLA in 1992 and 1997 from the Garhshankar general category seat while he belongs to the scheduled caste. “I was thrown out of BSP after I sided with Kanshi Ram’s family when they were trying to reach him in his last days,” Shahungra says.
Kandhi Canal executive engineer Vijay Gill said that the department had earlier got a decree for his eviction and then orders from a civil court in 2005. “Our attempts to get the house vacated were foiled but we got it vacated with a magisterial order and police help,” he said.
“I entered politics to participate in Kanshi Ram’s mission to empower the lower castes and I never tried to make money during my two stints,” Shahunggra insists. “If I am seeing these days it is because of my refusal to indulge in corruption.
When I was MLA, the salary was not enough to build a house and now I survive on my pension. I never thought of starting a business.” Ironically, his elder brother builds houses as a dailywage mason and younger brother is a labourer in Greece