Former railway minister Mamata Bannerjee's patriotic song for the
country's armed forces and promise of railway jobs for
ex-servicemen became quite a hook for many a battle-scarred
ex-soldier. But now they would like to make it their swansong.
Lured by the promise of a permanent job, ex-servicemen responded
to a railway recruitment drive across its divisions earlier this
year, in the chimeric hope of a rewarding new career.
When they finally got their appointment letters in June, however,
they were shocked to find that they had been placed as cleaners,
waiters, loaders, and in other menial positions.
Many claim that they were short-changed even with regard to pay
and other emoluments as compared with what they got in the Army,
Navy and Air Force or would have got in the private sector.
One such applicant, Venkateshu Sanjiva, of Karnataka had taken
part in the action in Operation Bluestar in Punjab in 1984, and
also during the Kargil war.
After retirement from the Indian Army as a technical-level
store-keeper, he joined Reliance in Navi Mumbai, managing its
labour camp on a monthly salary of around Rs.20,000.
"I responded with great hope to the Central Railway (CR)
advertisement this year and quit my private job to re-join
government service. I was aghast to be appointed as a cleaner in
the canteen at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in Mumbai,"
Sanjiva told IANS.
A former Army Medical Corps store-keeper, Santosh Salvi of Thane,
had a similar experience: he was placed as a cleaner-cum-loader in
pantry cars of long distance trains originating in CST.
"I have served in places like Assam, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala
under extremely trying circumstances. Now, I am reduced to a
pantry car cleaner-cum-loader after 24 years' military service,"
A resident of Ahmednagar, Sunil Funde, who retired as a
store-keeper (technical) in remote border areas after 25 years, is
now a cleaner in the central railway canteen at CST and, at times,
doubles as a waiter.
Former army subedar D.V. Bhoite said he "feels totally let-down"
after getting an appointment letter as a cleaner in the CST
Originally from Kolhapur, Bhoite notched 28 years in the Army and
later took up a private job. He quit that in favour of what he
expected would be a better job in the CR.
Incidentally, while presenting the Railway Budget-2011-12, Mamata
Banerjee had sung a couple of verses of a popular patriotic number
and announced over 16,000 railway jobs all over India for
Of these, 1,162 vacancies came up in the CR, with a stipulation
that the applicant must have put in minimum 20 years in the Indian
Army, Indian Navy or Indian Air Force.
"The vacancies advertised were for Group D, without specifying the
nature of the jobs. So a large number ex-servicemen like us
applied, though many had better-paying jobs in the private
sector," Funde told IANS.
Funde said reports from other railway divisions indicate that
ex-servicemen have been given jobs unworthy of their qualification
"There are many who have seen action several times in the armed
forces. Now, many have been relegated to doing field jobs like
tightening nuts and bolts of railway tracks, head loaders, peons,
cleaners, waiters and so on," Funde said.
Others, when they learnt of the predicament of their colleagues,
did not bother to take up menial jobs and have continued with
their existing jobs, he added.
When contacted, a high-ranking CR official said that Group D in
the central government is equal to Class IV government jobs.
The official gave an assurance he would enquire into the
grievances of ex-servicemen next week.
Sanjiva, Bhoite, Funde and Salvi said they have decided to
continue in their present railway jobs "as we have no option".
They said they had commitments like home loan EMIs, higher
education for their son or marriage of their daughters, medical
expenses of elderly parents, among others, which compelled them to
carry on with the railway jobs.
"We have requested CR authorities to at least give us more
dignified jobs considering our academic and career backgrounds,
but so far there has been no response," Funde said, adding that 42
of them are cleaners, waiters, loaders or godown hands in the CST
They unanimously said that as soon as they got better options,
they would quit the railways, equally both for the low payscales
and the manner in which they have been treated.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at email@example.com)