BMC refuses safai karamchari study leave for TISS course #WTFnews


Sukanya Shantha : Mumbai, Sat Feb 09 2013, , IE
FP

For nearly a year, Sunil Yadav has been trying to take study leave from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), where he works as a safai karamchari, to complete his Masters at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. It was only through RTI that he got to know the reason for the delay. A “safai karamchari is not qualified to avail the leave”, as what he will learn is not connected to his duties, the RTI reply told him, a stipulation that is incidentally missing from the BMC rule book.

The first person from his family to have gone to college, the 33-year-old has been working as a conservancy worker with the BMC. It was on his third attempt that he managed to get enrolled into TISS’s Masters (Globalisation and Labour) course of two years.

When Yadav’s applications for a study leave received no reply, his course mates swung into action and sought a reply under the RTI seeking the definition of the term “employee” and asking who were eligible for a study sabbatical. In a reply in Marathi, the Public Information Officer of the D Ward of BMC said, “an academic course which is connected with his duty as a corporation employee or is in public interest then the employee may be permitted to attend such a course or a study tour. However, taking this into account, a conservancy worker is not entitled to such study leave.”

Recently, Yadav, who holds a double Masters degree and diploma in social work, was shortlisted for a student exchange programme at the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg. But the recommendation can be processed only after BMC agrees to allow him to travel to South Africa and to continue with his education.

The BMC has even overlooked orders by the National Commission of Safai Karamcharis to expedite Yadav’s application. “Denying/any delay in grant of study leave… may lead to refusal of admission by TISS,” reads the Commission’s letter to the BMC, which had on two occasions sought action taken report.

Calling the BMC’s reply a product of highly casteist mentality, chairperson of the commission Kamlaben Gujjar said, “It is unconstitutional to deny anyone a right to study. Officers of higher grades can any way educate themselves, it is the Class IV employees who need support and affirmative atmosphere to grow.”

While Additional Municipal Commissioner Mohun Adhtani was not available for a comment, BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunthe said he could’t reply. “I have not seen the reply and hence it will not be appropriate to comment on it.”

Conservancy workers, who predominantly come from the Scheduled Castes, have a very low literacy rate. Given the nature of work and lack of any civic measures, life expectancy is very low.

Yadav has been working at night and attending lectures during the day to complete his studies. He is now in his second semester. “I have worked for over seven years with the BMC. In the past nine months I tried several times to find out why I have not been granted leave. But no one cared to respond. Now I understand. The system wants a safai karamchari to remain one forever.”

 

Turban Legend- Shivaji underground in Bhimnagar- Shanta Gokhale #Sunday Reading


Turban legend

SEPARATING THE BEST FROM THE BANAL ON MUMBAI’S CULTURESCAPE

Mumbai Mirror

The play is in Marathi, the title is in English. Marathi theatre loves this combo. But the title is not your innocuous All the Best or Lovebirds. It is
Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla. Sounds potentially explosive. In times when we dare not touch Shivaji, not in plays, novels, short stories, reminiscences or history, particularly not in history, this play puts him upfront in the title itself. I look over my shoulder to see who else has noticed and is rolling up his sleeves for action.
Anyway, why is Shivaji underground? Isn’t he always on a magnificent Arab steed, raised sword in hand? Or sitting majestically on an opulent throne? More than why, where has he gone underground? In Bhimnagar of all places? What’s he doing hobnobbing with Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar’s followers?
The whole thing is a mystery. But if the title isn’t intriguing enough to take you to the nearest theatre where the play is showing, the three names attached to it should do the trick. The first is Shahir Sambhaji Bhagat’s. He is the radical balladeer whose rousing call to the exploited of this country to wake up and recognise the faces of their enemies, ‘Inko dhyaan se dekho re bhai/ Inki soorat ko pehchano re bhai,’ has become an all-time hit. The concept of the present play, its music and its songs are his. The second name is Nandu Madhav’s. He’s the actor who gave flesh, blood, passion and madness to the character of Dadasaheb Phalke in Paresh Mokashi’s multi-award winning film, Harishchandrachi Factory. He directs this play. The third name is Rajkumar Tangde’s. We first heard of him when Nandu Madhav brought him and his group of farmer actors down from Jalna to perform their play Aakda in Mumbai. It was about stealing power, and was staged in near-darkness to give the audience an immediate taste of what life in the actors’ villages was like without power. Tangde wrote that play, and has written this.
So there I am in Shivaji Mandir, a-tingle with expectation without quite knowing what to expect. This much I know. With these three names attached to it, the play cannot be a wishy-washy regurgitation of a formula. It has to be something new and energising. And it is.
The curtain goes up on a large ensemble of actors placed geometrically on different levels, dressed in costumes suggesting the era of Shivaji. Two performers of gondhal (a ritual performance that marks celebrations) begin singing a traditional mythological tale. A woman interrupts them saying, we are fed up with mythology. Come into the present and sing about today.
This introduction gives us an idea of which way the play is headed. Through song, humour and discussion, it pits mythology against history with a hilarious running gag that often brings the house down. Yama (Pravin Dalimbkar) has being sent to earth to fetch Shivaji up, along with his ideas. Shivaji forgets his ideas and returns to earth to get them. He leaves his turban behind as surety, but doesn’t return. Yama (now Yamaji) runs around looking for a head on which the turban will fit. The turban thus becomes a symbol of Shivaji’s ideas; and the political party headed by the opportunistic Akka (Ashwini Bhalekar), which is all set to celebrate Shiv Jayanti, proves that it is the least likely candidate for the turban.
The central idea of the play is that Shivaji has been mythologised by the very people whose ancestors had opposed his coronation because he wasn’t a Kshatriya, but who now claim him as their idol for political mileage. The argument culminates in a brilliant jugalbandi between Dharma Shahir (Sambhaji Tangde), a minion of the myth-makers and Milind Kamble (Kailas Waghmare), who sees Shivaji’s greatness not only in his wars but in his policies regarding women, caste, religion, agriculture and revenue which made him such a just and compassionate king.
Unlike the typical urban middleclass play that confines itself to drawing rooms and kitchens, folk forms offer theatre the freedom to address the big issues of the day. This play comes close in form to the old Ambedkari jalsas, mixing music, humour, even slapstick, with pure didacticism.
Nandu Madhav rehearsed the cast for 100 days, mostly in the fields of Jalna. His hard work shows in the easy precision with which the actors speak and move. Finally, you are so grateful to see Shivaji taken away from myth-making chauvinists and given his true greatness by those who know and respect history.

SHANTA GOKHALE

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