Sunday, April 19, 2009

Forgotten voices...

In the immediate aftermath of the events of 26/11 in Mumbai, we all heard a million voices, an outpour of grief, rage and shock through many different sources. For its part Technology and the media stepped in as well. This was the age of twittering or tweeting, they said, and we all were amazed at how easily we knew so much without having to look too far. News had reached a new frontier, one that we had never seen before. It was as momentous as CNN's coverage of Iraqi Scuds hitting Kuwait in August of 1990, as fleeting as the concrete rubble through the streets of NY that fateful day of 9/11.

You would think something had changed right? I mean, with all this immediacy we should be in a position to do more to make people's lives better, to help our friends in distress. And we have. I think the world is more cohesive now than ever before, though the dark spots still remain. But the human condition is still the same right? Pain always is pain, and so is grief.Some voices are almost always forgotten. Except when people really want to make the change.

I know many people who said a lot of different things, the weeks after 26/11. From boycotting things to actual picking up a fight with some of them, from going out raising funds for the families of those affected to providing more information on the missing, I came across this wide spectrum of initiatives from people, some which fizzled out within a week, some that made their actions count.

One such effort came from a friend of mine, he wanted to raise funds for the families of the Police constables and Armymen who lost their lives or were incapacitated after the attacks, because usually the lower you are on the rungs of Indian bureaucracy, the chances are, you are usually forgotten. I just contributed to his effort but was really interested in knowing how he was going to do this and what the feedback would be. It took Krishna three months but surprisingly enough I received an email from him with the details of his endeavour. Most of the stories are personal, touching and show you that probably time is the only healer in all this.

These are some of the stories,

1. Shri Sudhir Marolia, fire fighter (Fractured his leg): Sudhir is a fire fighter attached to Bandra Fire brigade.On 28th Nov,in the Taj Mahal hotel, when the encounter was on, a hand grenade was thrown on the fire men while trying to save people from Taj. While trying to save himself from the grenade, he twisted his ankle. He was immediately taken to a hospital where an X-ray report seemed to be normal. He was told, it was just a sprain. This incident happened at around 6.30PM. He was then taken to his office (Bandra fire brigade) where he was still crying with pain, but his seniors ignored saying it was just a sprain. Later when he complained of persisting pain to his immediate senior and requested for an ambulance, he was denied stating that all vehicles are in operational in Taj and that he will need to wait. He had to wait till 2.30Am (29th Nov) till his reliever had come . Then he took rest till 5.00 Am and then he finally had to take a rickshaw back home.

Please note he earns only 8000 rupees (160 dollars) a month and has a wife and 2 children to support.

The Fire men in India aren’t provided a mediclaim insurance policy. They get a risk allowance of Rs.50 per month which has now been increased to Rs.500 after 26/11 attacks. The family was extremely in need of money and when a cheque was given to them (through the iniative) they were very happy and said they felt happy about the fact that even a common man thinks about them.

2. Shri ML Choudhari, Police Head constable attached to Railway police in CST station (He died in the CST firing):

The team met Smt Snehalata Murlidhar Choudhari' wife of 'Shri ML Choudhari' at their Ambarnath residence. They have a daughter 'Ms Priyanka' who is a graduate and wants to do her MBA now. She has now been offered a job at Saraswat Co-op bank. They have a son, Devesh who is in 9th std. The team spoke to 'Smt Snehalata Murlidhar Choudhari' almost for 1/2 hr. She was saying about how they came to know about this.

Normally Shri ML Choudhari would come home by 1.15 AM when he is on 2nd shift. On 26th Nov also, he was on 2nd shift and his duty was about to end in 1 hr when the firing took place and he had to stay back. When it was around 1.30 she got tensed and called up on his mobile. She was not aware of the firing at CST station. Her husband's colleague picked up the phone and informed her about the incident. She initially thought that it could have been a prank and thought she might have probably dialed a wrong number. Again she called up on her husband's mobile and then she was asked to come to CST station immediately. She still could not believe it and she thought that it could have been a prank by one of the robbers who might have caught her husband for few bucks at Ambernath station since it was late in the night . She informed the person to please take the mobile and money and whatever he wants and leave her husband. The colleague replied he wasn’t playing any prank and asked her to switch on the TV. That was when she came to know of the whole incident.

On the fateful night , he died along with his Senior Shri.Shashank Shinde after Kasab and Ismail Khan fired indiscriminately at CST station.

3. Gajendra Singh, NSG Commando (Died Smt Vineeta Devi, wife of martyr 'Shri Gajendra Singh' . The cheque has been sent through registered post to Army headquarters , South block, Delhi. I was liaising with Col Rawat who gave me all details of the family. He suggested that if I send a crossed cheque in favour his wife is sent to them, they will arrange to send it to his wife. Accordingly this has been done. Col Rawat also said, they are trying for a job for Smt Vineeta Devi in the Uttarakhand government. He also said , Shri Gajendra Singh's brother who is a driver with Police dept, is also having some dispute with the money. Hence Col Rawat has taken this responsibility of sending this cheque.

A little background about Gajendra Singh’s family :

It’s sad to say that, the last time Shri Gajendra Singh went home was on 15th Aug 2008, when his father died. And then it was on 26/11 when his dead body reached home. It seems Smt Vineeta Devi didn’t know about the operation as Gajendra Singh told her that he was in Delhi. But he was actually sent to Mumbai for this deadly operation.

Since childhood , he always had a dream to join to the army and he himself opted to join the NSG. He has 2 kids: Daughter, Preeti who is 10 years old and son, Gaurav who is 11 years old.

6. Arun Chitte : A cheque was Rs.25,000/- was issued to his wife 'Manisha Chitte' who has 3 daughters : Komal, studying in 3rd Std., Snehal, studying in 3rd Std and Kushi, who is in Nursery. The family lives in Mhada colony in Dharavi and owns 2 houses in that same building. She was offered a job in Police but she refused. Now that job has been given to Arun's brother. Also Manisha's brother has also been offered a job at Saraswat Co-Op bank. Arun had been working as driver for encounter specialist Mr. Vijay Salaskar for almost 10 years. He had been with him for almost all the encounters. Like his boss, he also never had any bad habits like smoking or drinking.

After our conversation with Manisha and her brother, we saw that she was confident of bringing up her kids.

7. Balasaheb Bhosale: : Rs.10,000/- .Asst Sub Inpector Balasaheb Bhosale was also killed in the 26 / 11 attacks. He is survived by his wife 'Sharda Bhosale' to whom we gave a cheque of Rs.10,000/- at their Naigaon police quarters residence and 2 sons ,Deepak, who is attached to Naigaon police station and another son, Sachin who has been offered a job in Mantralaya .

8. Vijay Khandekar : Constable Vijay Khandekar was attached to Azad Maidan police station. We managed to meet his wife 'Shradha Khandekar' at her Nagpada residence in police quarters. She refused to take donations since she said she was financially stable and wanted us to help others who are in need of it. So no donations were made to his family. Last week also 'Vijay's' name had hit the headlines. The Indian government had forgotten his sacrifice to our country and his name was listed in the Police routine transfer list.

Rahul Shinde: Rs. 25,000/-.Rahul Shinde is a constable attached to SRPF division in Solapur. Rahul was single and youngest in his family. His elder brother has been offered a job in Taj Hotel in Mumbai but his mom doesn’t want him go to Mumbai because she is extremely scared and doesn’t want to come to Mumbai. So he has refused this job. Rahul’s family lives in a small village in Sultanpur district in Solapur. Their source of income is farming. The team sent a cheque of Rs.25,000/- to his father registered post .

Shri Prakash More: Rs.10,000/- .The cheque was issued in name of his wife Mrs. Madhavi Prakash More. Shri Prakash More's eldest son 'Pratik' is studying FY Engineering from a college in Dombivali and his daughter, Anushka is studying in 8th std. Mrs. Madhavi Prakash More is working with a bank. She was away at work when the team had gone to their house. The cheque was handed over to Pratik in front of their neighbour as a witness at their Mulund residence.

Shri Tukaram Ombale: : Rs.10,000/- . The cheque was handed over to his wife 'Tarabai Tukaram Omble' . When the team went to his house, they got a chance to speak to his wife and his family friend . He has 4 daughters. 2 of them are married. The other 2 daughters are Vaishali, studying BA B 'ED and Bharati, studying TYBA. As they entered his house, next to his photo they saw the Ashok Chakra' which was given to him on 26th Jan 2009. It was because of Shri Omble that the cops were able to nab Kasab alive.

12. Jaywant Patil : Rs. 100,000/- .He studied till 12th Std. He then joined police force and had served for 17 years. While in the police force, he did his graduation by joining a night college in Bhandup. He was the trusted body guard of Shri Ashok Kamte (Asst Commissioner of Police, Chembur Zone) who also lost his life on the fateful night.

The terrorists had pumped 18 bullets into his body. He is survived by his wife 'Pratibha Jaywant Patil' and 2 cute kids, Esha, who is studying in 1st std in St Xaviers school in Bhandup and a 4 month old baby named 'Shaurya'. His naming ceremony took place just few days before this attack. Since now she is alone with her kids, her parents have come from Satara to stay with her. They will be moving back to Satara very soon.

13. Ambadas Pawar : Rs. 25,000/- . He is survived by his wife 'Kalpana Pawar' and 1 1/2 yr old kid named Vivek. They have been given a 2 BHK flat in Mhada colony in Sion - Koliwada where they have already shifted.

Spoke to Ambadas Pawar’s brother, father and mother. They are also currently staying with her in the new flat. They said they have also been allotted a petrol pump and Shri Ambadas's wife has been given a job in Saraswat Co Op bank .

Shri Ambadas Pawar was also in the same jeep in which Ashok Kamte, Hemant Karkare, Jaywant Patil were killed.

14. Mukesh Jhadav : Rs. 25,000/- . He is survived by 4 brothers, father and mother. He was the 3rd son. The 2nd son has been offered a job in Railways at Kalyan station. They have also been allotted a 2 BHK Mhada flat in Sion Koliwada.

15. Shri Bapurao Dhurdagde: Rs. 50,000/- given to the Shri Bapurao Dhurdagde's family at their Sewri residence. They live in a chawl-type constable level police quarters above Sewri Police station in Reay Road. Krishna personally met his wife and handed over the cheque to her. He has 2 daughters & 1 son. Eldest daughter is doing Computer Science from BVP college, Nerul and other daughter in engineering. Son is doing chemical engineering. I spoke to their eldest daughter. She appreciated our gesture to help the family. Mom didn’t speak much. She was still in a state of shock. She just came out to sign the acknowledgement and was silent.


Anonymous Chitra said...

Dear Shiva,
I am very impressed with your blog. I live in the USA (originally a mumbaikar)and am keen on visiting Omble's house & family when I will visit Mumbai this Dec.
Do you know of what funding the government has given all these fallen soldiers? Almost all have surviving families -very little children.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Chitra said...

I re-read your blogpost for your friend's name.
Are you able to share Krishna's email with me?
I would like to connect with him to learn more about his efforts and his experiences during his home visits.

9:01 PM  

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