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Is the Government listening?

The atrocity of the governmental authorities of India towards its citizens is not a new thing. It has been going on for decades. Some fortunate cases are taken proper care of while some don't even see the light of the day. In the present day world, we come across many instances where the victim itself backs out due to the not-so-bothered attitude of the government or the officials concerned. Corruption at the top levels has indeed given truth and justice a backseat. Our Constitution has laid down certain Fundamental Rights, which every citizen of the county is entitled to. Still, the common man has to fight for it and sometimes he has to wait for ages to get what actually belonged to him. The following story is one such instance where oppression is at its heights. Not only did the officials deceive him in his own country, but also by the representatives in the foreign land. The victim, Raju Sathyavelu, a resident of Karkala in the Udupi district of Karnataka was a crewmember of the ship, M.V.Nadi. He had been on an assignment to Dubai in September 2002. Due to technical problems in the ship, he along with 22 other crewmembers had to abandon it off the coast of Somalia and were rescued by Croatian Navy F085. All the men were deported to the Indian Embassy at Djibouti, Addis Ababa. The owner and contractor of the ship, Rajesh Lullah, called at the Embassy but the officials at the Embassy did not inform the 23 men about the visit. On the contractors departure from Djibouti, 12 trainees out of the 23 crewmen were sent back to India and the remaining 11 men, among whom one was Raju, stayed on.

The way they were treated was inhuman. They were housed in a shabby guesthouse by the Embassy and were given food once in three days. The food if at all supplied, was collected from the left over of the nearby Gujrati families. The 11 helpless men pleaded to the Embassy to arrange for their return to India but in vain. As if this was not enough, the Embassy asked the 11 men to collect funds on their own to return to India. Somehow, with great difficulty, they arranged for the return tickets. And then came the greatest shock of all when the Embassy asked them to clear a bill of Rupees 1,20,000 for their 55-day stay. The bill also included the expenses of the stay of the owner and the 12 trainee crewmen who had left long ago. Since they were unable to pay this huge sum, they were penalized by the officials who took away their Passports and their C.D.C. (Ship-driving) license and sent them with an Emergency Certificate to India. The Embassy promised to return these essential documents only on repayments of the dues for their stay. Raju returned to India without a means of livelihood. He was helpless as his driving license and his passport were seized. He was now under debt as his family had borrowed to collect money for his return ticket. The Embassy officials in Addis Ababa had complained about the matter to the Regional Passport Office, Bangalore, who threatened Raju with action for violating the Passport Act 1967 by not repaying his dues to the Embassy. Raju has an old mother, wife, son, a younger brother and a younger sister to support. Helpless, he wrote through his lawyer to the Secretary, External Affairs, to the Embassy officials and to the R.P.O. office in Bangalore, pleading for help. The Constitution of India guarantees to its citizens the Right to practice any occupation that they want. But this Fundamental Right of Raju stands curtailed at the moment. He is now shattered - mentally and

psychologically. He wants his Passport and license back along with the money he spent for his return to India. He also wants the ships owner to be traced so that he can claim his salary and compensation. India is supposed to be the largest democracy in the world with a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people. It is also said that a government is a reflection of its own people. But if we see such a distorted and corrupt face of the government, then its high time for us to question: What sort of people are we?

The Methodology: As a team of four we had been to social activist and Human Rights worker Dr. Shanbaghs office to look at some of the investigative reports and the methodologies adopted in dealing with the cases. Over there the agonized face of a man struck us. He was standing in a long queue, waiting for his chance to present his case to Dr. Shanbagh. On speaking to him, Raju Satyavelu told us about his present helpless condition in broken Hindi. We got a sketchy outline of the case and asked him to bring his documents next week. In the mean time we spoke to Dr. Shanbagh and Dr. Uni Krishnan, also working with Dr. Shanbagh, about the case. We got their inputs and main comments on the case. It was a great help as they had talked to Raju in the local language and had built up the skeleton of the case. Next week Raju came with the documents he had which we photocopied as a proof of evidence. Then we spoke to him for long and asked him all about his experiences, cross-checking it with the written matter he had got with him. We took the contact number of Rajus lawyer and his uncle who had helped his family to collect money for Rajus return to India and got in touch with them in knowing their comments on the case. After working on the case thoroughly, we sat with Dr. Uni Krishnan and wrote the letter to the Indian Embassy, Addis Ababa on behalf of Dr. Shanbaghs office asking them for an explanation for their action on Raju Satyavelu. We got all the necessary materials and sat down to write our report on this atrocity of the Government towards its own citizen.