WEST BENGAL: In a poor village in Jhargram’s Gopiballavpur in West Bengal, a man wheels himself around 15 km to reach his office where he works as a casual employee of Jhargram district Collectorate. Life has been like this for Jagannath Mahato (32), his legs becoming lifeless shortly after his birth.
“In school, I crawled up the stairs to reach my classroom and sometimes, my classmates gave me a hand by lifting me,” says Mahato. Mahato was determined to carry on with his education at least till his graduation in geography honours from a college 55km from his home. “I rented a small room and took private tuition. “I had to crawl within my room for household work and out on the road to reach the college.”
After graduation, Mahato had to earn for his family that consists of his wife and parents by taking private tuitions and going out in his wheelchair for over 20 km every day to teach over 100 students. A new story was about to begin for Mahato. One day in 2012, Mahato was among scores of locals who stood by the roadside to welcome Mamata Banerjee, who was on a whirlwind tour of the state a few months after she had brought down the 34-year Left rule.
“I was returning from my coaching centre when I saw the crowd eager to see our new CM. As a beaming Mamata waving at us, I too responded by raising my hand. Her convoy suddenly stopped. I was surprised when she came to my wheelchair,’’ he recounted. “She asked my name and about my education. She directed the officials accompanying her to look into my case.
Hours after she left, senior officials visited my house,” he said. Mahato had to wait for three years before the much-assured job arrived. “I met the CM again in an award ceremony where I was felicitated. She recognised me, and I told her that I was yet to get a job,’’ he said. In 2015, Mahato was offered the job as a casual worker in the district collectorate. “Every day, I travel 15 km on my wheelchair to attend office. I get Rs 9,000 per month,” he says, pleading: “I will be grateful if the government appoints me as a permanent employee.”