Sunday, October 9, 2011


Mamata's patriotic song becomes swansong for ex-servicemen

Mumbai, Sep 18 (IANS) 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,' Salvi rued.
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 canteen. 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 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 ex-service personnel. 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 IAF. 'The vacancies advtised 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 or experience. '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 canteen. 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.

(Source-IANS :Quaid Najmi can be contacted at
DNA special: Army livid with actor Mohanlal playing army man in ads
Published: Sunday, Oct 9, 2011, 11:00 IST   
He may be Kerala’s greatest living actor, but when Mohanlal tried to mix fact with fiction and portray in real life that he was a 1971 war hero, he seemed to have gone too far. For a 45-day period stretching from December 1, 2010 to January 15, 2011, during the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival, Mohanlal appeared in a series of print and TV advertisements in army uniform, wearing an impressive array of medals and badges that mark him as a 1971 war hero, an NSG commando, a gallantry medal awardee, and the recipient of a commendation card from the army chief.

The ads also featured Amitabh Bachchan. Incidentally, Mohanlal and Bachchan were co-stars in Kandahar, a film that released in the same month. The film was made by Mohanlal’s own production house, Ashirwad Films. Guess what role Mohanlal played in Kandahar? A brave army officer and a commando.

Well, all this would have been fine but for the fact that Mohanlal had been appointed as an honorary officer in the Territorial Army by the ministry of defence in 2009. He is therefore bound by strict rules and regulations that bar him from misusing or misrepresenting his uniform. According to sources in South Block, upset army officials now want to strip him of his rank permanently.

The advertisement was noticed by a retired army officer, Brigadier CP Joshi, while on a trip to Ooty. “I was appalled to see a man who has been honoured by the Indian Army pull off something this cheap, putting on medals he clearly does not deserve. How can he claim that he took part in the 1971 war, or is qualified to make parachute jumps, or is a NSG commando,” asks a furious Joshi. “We live and die for it. How can somebody so cynically use it for commercial gain?”

Apparently, not only has Mohanlal broken the law that prohibits him from putting on medals he has not been awarded, he has also indulged in an unethical practice, deeply embarrassing army headquarters. “We gave him the uniform to give bring greater focus on the Indian Army. But he has used it for selfish commercial purposes, to portray himself as a decorated officer when he has never been awarded a medal. We are now planning to propose that his rank and uniform be taken away,” a senior army officer told DNA on condition of anonymity. According to him, “he can only use his army uniform in an advertisement to motivate youngsters to join the army. But even that requires special permission from the office of the army chief after following procedures.” The ad campaign was the outcome of a sponsorship deal between the tourism ministry of the Kerala government and Mohanlal’s Ashirwad Films, according to which the later was paid Rs50 lakh for promoting the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival (held fromDec 1, 2010-Jan 15, 2011) for a period of 45 days. “The GKSF had a sponsorship deal with Ashirwad Films owned by Mohanlal. While they publicised the 45-day shopping festival through newspapers, billboards and TV channels, we in GKSF distributed tickets of the movie Kandahar produced by them,” said KN Sathish, founder director of GKSF, who recently took over as district collector, Kasargod.

In retrospect, it appears that Mohanlal saw an opportunity to not only make some money, but also promote his latest film, which, sadly for him, bombed at the box office. But the advertisement did not have any disclosure stating that his picture in it was from a film, and most people assumed that he was sporting medals awarded to him by the ministry of defense. Under section 419 of the Indian Penal Code, such impersonation is illegal and he can be prosecuted for identity theft or fraud.

Mohanlal remained unavailable despite several attempts to contact him. His office told DNA that he was traveling abroad and could not be contacted.
(Source- DNA)

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