The nation’s debt to Gandhi’s saviour, Batak Mian, will no longer be overlooked. President Pratibha Patil has stepped in to ensure that his grandchildren, who live in penury in Bihar’s West Champaran district, get the land India’s first President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, had gifted in 1957.
“Her Excellency, an austere Gandhian, has taken note of the HT report,” Patil’s Officer-on-Special Duty (OSD) Archana Datta said in a written communication on Friday evening.
HT carried the report, Family of Mahatma’s Saviour in Dire Straits, on January 22.
Datta asked the district magistrates of East and West Champaran to file reports on the steps the Bihar government had taken to implement the Presidential order.
It happened in 1917 when Gandhi, relatively unknown then, visited Motihari, headquarters of the erstwhile Champaran district, 160 km northwest of Patna, to probe the appalling condition at indigo plantations.
A British manager of an indigo plantation invited Gandhi to dinner and told his cook, Batak Mian, to serve him poisoned milk. Batak Mian took the glass to Gandhi, but revealed the plot. Later, he had to pay heavily for his patriotism.
Now, Batak Mian’s five grandsons stay with their families at Akwa Parsawni village, around 60 km northeast of West Champaran district headquarter Bettiah. Illiterate and jobless, they work as migrant labourers.
“We have received orders from the President’s House to verify and report,” West Champaran district magistrate Ramesh Lal said, adding, “We are locating them.”