Calcutta, Feb. 18: Mohammad Rafique wrote the first letter to the state government in 1986 after his wife died while on duty at the Bidhannagar state general hospital. He asked it to provide a job to his son, Mohammad Sajju, on “compassionate grounds”.
It’s now four years into another century and Rafique has written 1,143 more letters in the last 18 years. Still the government job the 70-year-old wanted for his son is out of reach.
Rafique’s only victory — if it can be called that — has been his success in convincing the government about the merit of his case. The health department has agreed that Sajju should get a job but by the time it made up its mind another government order — freezing recruitment at the lower levels of the health department — had come into force, blocking the family’s search for a job.
Sajju’s mother, Shakila Bibi, was a Group D staff with the health department. Hers was the only secure job the family — staying in Metiabruz — had and it fell on hard times after her death.
Rafique, at 52, considered himself too old for a new job. So he applied, in accordance with government rules, for a job for his younger son. The file started moving only in 1993, seven years after Shakila’s death.
It was moving slowly — as Rafique kept up his efforts to get the government’s attention — when the first speed-breaker came. It came from within the family — Sajju’s elder brother Mohammad Jamshed wrote to the government, saying he should get the job.
Rafique stepped in, writing a few more letters. Jamshed was living separately with his family and had a job of his own, his father said. A job for him would not help the majority of the family that his wife had left behind.
It took some time — and letters — for the health department to be convinced. It consulted its legal section and agreed that it was Sajju who should get the job.
As Sajju waited for the appointment letter, he received a missive that asked him to prove his age. His father wrote back, saying Sajju did not have a birth certificate. But the government could verify Sajju’s age, he added.
It was a few more years — and letters — after which the government had Sajju’s age tested (by ossification) and was satisfied with its results. After being prodded by the West Bengal Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Minorities, the department finally agreed to give Sajju a job.
But by then its rules had changed. With the state government’s finances in a poor shape, it froze recruitment of Group D staff.
“The department will act as soon as all the parameters — for Sajju getting a job — are satisfied,” said director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee. “We cannot go against the rules,” he added, signalling that Sajju’s wait will continue.