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From cleaning drains to junior engineer?
Vijay Singh in Mumbai | May 04, 2004 18:45 IST
Hard word, 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 had qualified for a junior engineer's post in 1998. On April 22, 2004, the Bombay high court upheld his case raising hopes that things might look up now.
His father, Raghunath, was a Class IV employee in the BMC who 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, which is the junior engineer's post.
At that time, Santosh was doing a diploma course in civil engineering from the Sabu Siddiqui College.
In 1995, he got a job in the BMC as a khadabadli mazdoor (replacement employee or on a temporary basis), to clean drains. He was not disheartened because he saw it as a step towards getting a government job.
Alongside, he continued with his engineering course.
"My father wholeheartedly encouraged me to complete my diploma course in pursuit of his dream," said Santosh.
"Cleaning drains is difficult work. I had to work 4-5 hours in difficult conditions without proper facilities. Some workers even drink liquor to be able to bear the smell, but not me.
In 1997, following a strike, I was shifted to garbage loading work. My duty hours were 7am to 12 noon. I used to attend engineering lessons from 6-9pm and also used free time to learn some other construction related issues."
In 1998, BMC had conducted a departmental interview for the post of junior engineer. Santosh applied mentioning in his application form that he is working with the corporation as a temporary employee and the nature of his work, all with the approval of his superior official.
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 had been 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 and to approach to 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. But 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 after paying his court fees and study expenses.
Sometime in between, in view of his qualifications, he was shifted to the office of the Assistant Municipal Commissioner of 'L' ward. His designation was the same but his work profile was changed. He now maintains computerised records of 'L' ward, receives complaints from consumers and diverts it to the respective departments.
He spent approximately Rs 50,000 to fight the four-year long battle but is not bitter about it. During the time spent fighting the case, he enrolled for a course with the AMIE (Associate Member of the Institution of Engineers) 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 used to deliver milk in the mornings, in the construction business with a friend and learnt Auto Cad (a software program used by engineers).
He lives with his parents and sister in very small room in Dadar. After his father retired, his parents began spending most of their time in their native place Aarwali in western Maharashtra's Konkan region. In 2003, he had got married.
His father is no doubt a very happy man but is also concerned. "I am not very sure what will happened next. What if the BMC moves the Supreme Court against the high court ruling?"
The BMC is yet to implement the court order, or challenge it. When contacted, it refused to comment on the case saying it had not got the court order.
Santosh cannot be bothered. He is now looking forward to an appointment to the post of junior engineer.
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