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Bismillah Khan frets over government ignoring request

Ailing shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan is grateful to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for releasing a special grant of Rs.250,000 for his treatment//, but is pained that the central government continues to ignore his request for a cooking gas agency for one of his grandsons.

The 91-year-old Khan, who was awarded the Bharat Ratna - India's highest civilian honour - in 2001, says a gas agency would be useful for him to run his huge family, reportedly numbering around 70 that live together in his small house in this Uttar Pradesh city.

The maestro was admitted to a private nursing home Thursday after he became very weak following a brief illness. He had lapsed into a state of semi-consciousness due to electrolyte imbalance.

He reportedly declined the prime minister's offer for treatment at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

Before he had fallen ill, he had expressed his anguish to this IANS correspondent over the gas agency request, which he had made in 2002.

'I hate to talk about it any more, but it really pains me to think that my humble plea to both prime minister and president went unheeded,' Khan told IANS.

'I had personally explained to then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee-ji how it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to run my huge household of children and grandchildren. I therefore requested him to get a cooking gas agency released in the name of one of my grandsons,' he had recalled.

'A few months later in June 2002 when I met then president K.R. Narayanan, I repeated my request. Mr. Narayanan too assured me that my request would be conceded before the next Independence Day, but now years have passed and I have yet to hear anything in that regard from anyone,' he had lamented.

His personal secretary Syed Javed Ahmed, attending on him at the local Heritage Hospital, told IANS Friday: 'Khan-saheb would often share his pain with us in p rivate. What is agonising for him is the apparent apathy of all those who matter. He has begun to suspect that even top leaders of the country are only paying lip service to him.'

Ahmed recalls how Bismillah Khan would often brood, 'Isn't it ironical that a gas agency can be released to any Tom, Dick or Harry on one recommendation from a Member of Parliament or even a legislator, but a similar request from an artiste like me for none other than my own grandson carries no value.'

Bismillah Khan is among the very few Indians with the distinction of bagging each and every national award - Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan apart from the Bharat Ratna.

According to his family members, 'Today he feels totally defeated and cheated'.

(Source - IANS)

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