BMC wants handicapped fireman to give physical test for promotion!

Paralysed from the waist down since an accident at the Worli fire station in 2005, Tushar Parab has been called for a physical test for promotion as a leading fireman; in 2007, the fire brigade had refused to take him back since he was handicapped, but a court order had forced them to do so

When it comes to thankless jobs and inconsiderate employers, Mumbai’s firemen seem to have everyone else beat.

Parab is entitled to a time-bound promotion, having served in the force for over 12 years. Pics/Satyajit Desai
Parab is entitled to a time-bound promotion, having served in the force for over 12 years. Pics/Satyajit Desai

When a fireman was paralysed from the waist down after being injured on duty in October 2005, the BMC did not cover his hospitalisation cost, denied him salary for nearly three years and even refused to give him his job back, saying the fire department does not employ handicapped people.

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Tushar Parab was allegedly also denied his salary for three years after he was injured while doing his job
Tushar Parab was allegedly also denied his salary for three years after he was injured while doing his job

Forced to take him back following a court order, they now want the 45-year-old to pass a physical test, which would involve the use of his paralysed legs, to get a promotion.

Tushar Parab had joined the Mumbai fire brigade in August 1999. While on duty as a fireman in October 2005 at the Worli fire station, he fell down while tying a ladder to the fire engine. He had to be admitted to the KEM hospital where he was declared paraplegic due to injuries to the spinal cord.

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He took treatment there for about 20 days, after which he underwent physiotherapy at the All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Haji Ali from July to September 2006.

He wrote to the fire brigade in February 2006, requesting accommodation at the Worli fire station since he was staying in Kalwa at the time and travelling to Haji Ali for his planned physiotherapy was difficult in his condition. He got the accommodation in June 2006, but only for a year, after which he was asked to vacate it.

Job woes
When he wanted to resume service in 2007, the fire department allegedly denied him a job with them, stating that they do not employ handicapped people.

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In October that year, he approached the court of the Commissioner for People With Disabilities in Pune, which ruled that Parab should be given a job as well as accommodation. In April 2008, he was employed as a fireman in the wireless department at the Worli fire station.

“But the BMC never paid me for the lost months between October 2005 and March 2008. Besides, I had to bear the cost of my own hospitalisation, which was around R2 lakh. The BMC only paid for my medication, which came to about Rs 20,000.

This despite the fact that I was injured in the course of my duty. How can the fire brigade treat its own people like this?” asked Parab.

Promotion test
Parab is now entitled to a promotion to the post of leading fireman, but he, like several others that are eligible for time-bound promotion, has to appear for a physical test to get it.

The fire department drew up a list of all such employees and called them for the physical test. Parab also got the call. “They know I am handicapped and yet they want me to pass a physical test,” said Parab.

The other side
Acting Chief Fire Officer P S Rahangdale said he had no idea how Parab’s name ended up on the list of those called for the test and said and he will investigate the matter. “Even if Parab received the call, it could just be for a medical test or he could have been called for a physical test as a formality.

I don’t have the information about the list off-hand so I will ask the concerned officers about the same,” said Rahangdale. Deputy Municipal Commissioner Narendra Barde said: “The lower-level officers of the fire department have made errors in this matter. I will take a look into the case and take necessary action”.

Union speak
“The fire department should give him a promotion directly. There is no need for him to pass any test,” Rajaram Dhuri, secretary, Mumbai Agnishaman Dal Ladau Kaamgaar Sanghatna.

A fireman is eligible to become a leading fireman by default after 12 years of service, but he has to pass a physical test, which includes running, doing physical exercises and participating in parade drills.

The job of leading fireman in the fire-dousing department includes leading the team to spots where a fire has broken out and successfully dousing it without any casualties. A leading fireman in the control room oversees all the firemen in his particular department.

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