Raiganj, Dec. 30: Even Santa could not bring him good news or goodies on the eve of Christmas.
When the mailman handed Subhas Chandra Dutta a sealed envelope on the fading afternoon of December 24, the former armyman was curious. The stamp on the brown envelope was unmistakable, but then, he thought, he had nothing to do or expect from the government.
“I could not believe my eyes when I ripped open the envelope and read through the appointment letter,” Dutta said. The letter from the state panchayats and rural development department asked him to report for a job he had applied for 16 years ago.
However, Dutta is too old for the job now. In fact, he is past the retirement age of 60 years.
“I went over it for a long time, but could not figure out why they sent me the appointment letter now,” Dutta, 63, said. “I had forgotten about it long back.”
The retired subedar took the tests for a gram sevak in 1986, after reading the advertisement for the post in the newspaper. He was elated when his name figured on the list of successful candidates.
“I was trying to settle down in my hometown, having served the army for 22 years, when the job came along. It was a godsend. My family and I were very happy,” the man said.
But he was not to get the job. Months, then years, passed but the letter never came.
“I ran around for a few years, meeting all sorts of government officials. They all asked me not to worry and said it was a matter of time before I got it. Nothing came.”
Having spent his life’s savings on building a house in Raiganj’s Tulshipara, Dutta said he was virtually broke at the time. He was depressed when his former colleagues got government jobs on the quota for ex-servicemen and he sat home, waiting for the letter.
One day, the armyman in him revolted. He could not take it any longer.
“I felt I had had enough of waiting and I would have to do something about my family,” Dutta said. He sold his wife’s jewellery and scraped money together for a grocery store.
“This is what has sustained me for the past 16 years. This shop has helped me marry off my two daughters and put my son through school and into the army, where he is serving now,” Dutta said.
Prithwinath Bose, joint secretary of the panchayats and rural development department, said a court case resulted in the delay in issuing the appointment letter. He said the department had been trying to appoint those selected in 1986 as panchayat secretaries as the government had done away with the gram sevaks.
“We are going ahead with the appointments, now that we have got the court order in this regard,” Bose said.
“But I am sorry we cannot do anything about Dutta’s case as he has already crossed the retirement age,” he added.