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The Rediff Special/Vijay Singh in Mumbai

May 04, 2004

Hard work, dedication, persistence are all essential for success.

Some people get it easy, others have to struggle for it. Santosh Ghavre comes in the second category.

He worked as a drain cleaner and garbage loader in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for nine years though he qualified for a junior engineer's post in 1998.

On April 22, 2004, the Bombay high court upheld his case after a long legal battle.

On May 25, 2004 Ghavre finally got his due -- a junior engineer's post that earns him Rs 13,000 a month. He is now a 'permanent employee' of the corporation -- a tag much valued by government and BMC staffers.

His father Raghunath was a Class IV employee in the BMC. He retired in 1993. There is a provision in the BMC to grant a job to a family member of retiring employees. Raghunath was supervisor at the time of his retirement and his dream was to see his son in the post of his superior, a junior engineer.

Santosh then was was doing a diploma course in civil engineering at the Saboo Siddiqui College in central Mumbai.

In 1995, he got a job in the BMC as a khadabadli mazdoor (replacement employee) to clean drains. He was not disheartened because he saw it as a step towards bagging a better job in the corporation.

Alongside, he continued with his engineering studies.

"My father wholeheartedly encouraged me to complete my diploma course in pursuit of his dream," said Santosh.

"Cleaning drains is difficult work. I worked 4 or 5 hours every day in difficult conditions without proper facilities. Some workers even drink liquor to be able to bear the stench, but not me.

"In 1997, following a strike, I was shifted to garbage loading work. My duty hours were 7 am to 12 noon. I used to attend engineering lessons from 6 pm to 9 pm and used the free time to learn some other construction related subjects."

In 1998, the BMC conducted departmental interviews for the post of junior engineer. Santosh applied, mentioning in his application form that he was working with the corporation as a temporary employee. He also mentioned the nature of his work. All this was done with the approval of his superiors.

He had secured a first class in his civil engineering examination. He was called for an interview, which he passed and was selected for the post of junior engineer.

But his happiness didn't last long because the BMC refused to appoint him saying the post was only for permanent employees and that he was called for the interview by mistake.

He approached the labour department and the employees union for help, but didn't get any.

"Everybody offered sympathy. I told some of them that I needed help to secure what I had earned not their sympathy. Some well-wishers told me that without a godfather in the BMC, it will be difficult for me to get that post. They told me I must approach the court for justice."

In June 1999, he filed a petition in the Bombay high court through advocate Sanjeev Sawant.

Some people warned him that his superiors were happy with his dedication towards work, his simplicity and kindness. But the court case could undo all the goodwill. The doomsayers were all wrong. No official ever harassed him.

He used to divide his time between work, study and court cases. The family's expenses were taken care of by his father's pension. Santosh also contributed a little after paying his court fees and study expenses.

Sometime in between, taking into consideration his qualifications, he was shifted to the office of the assistant municipal commissioner. His designation was the same but his work profile changed. He now maintained computerised records of the 'L' ward, received complaints from consumers and diverted them to the respective departments.

He spent approximately Rs 50,000 to fight the four-year-long legal battle but is not bitter about it. During the time spent fighting the case, he enrolled for a course with the Associate Member of the Institution of Engineers -- AMIE -- in 2003 to upgrade his diploma to a degree.

Santosh doesn't hide his profession or his qualifications. "When I was in college, my friends were aware that I was doing drainage cleaning work. Such thing cannot affect someone. Work is work."

In between, he also delivered milk in the mornings, got into construction business with a friend and learnt Auto Cad (a software program used by engineers).

He lives with his parents and sister in a tiny room in Dadar, northcentral Mumbai. After his father retired, his parents began spending most of their time in their native place, Aarwali, in Maharashtra's Konkan region. In 2003, he got married.

His father is a very happy man today. A dream has been fulfilled, a point made.

Image: Rahil Shaikh

The Rediff Specials

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Number of User Comments: 81

Sub: Great

An icon of motivation and persistance. Kudos to him

Posted by kalyanaraman

Sub: inspiring

Santosh you are an inspiration to all of us who crib about work atmoshphere sitting in a A/C office.Hats off to you.iam inspired by you.. ...

Posted by ashok

Sub: Cleaning drains to Junior Engg.

Mr. Santosh Congratulations on your hard work, determination and success. You are an excellent example of "Dignity of Labour" and "What can be achived when ...

Posted by Rajesh

Sub: Good inspiration

One Such Good exaple can inspire thousands of young bright minds. Thank you young man for settting such good example.

Posted by Amol

Sub: Truly Inspirational One

Great work done CONGRATS!!!!!!!!

Posted by Anand


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