On the eve of Independence Day, as the country gears up to celebrate its freedom, Balachandra Panicker, the son of a freedom fighter, will begin his fast unto death, accompanied by his mother. The 58-year-old was unceremoniously ‘relieved’ from his duties as an RPF constable 17 years ago -- all because he refused to pay a bribe to his superior.
Having fought for years against the authorities, Panicker has decided to fast unto death along with his 73- year-old mother, whose late husband was a freedom fighter. According to Panicker, he was posted in Ratlam as an RPF constable back in 1997. “After the death of my father the same year, I went into depression and was on sick leave for almost five months. When I came back for duty and underwent medical tests, doctors said that I was fit, but should not carry a weapon for a short while,” he said.
The day he resumed his official duties, he was told that the RPF did not have any posts where weapons were not used. Based on this logic, he was kept off duty for nearly four months. “I paid a visit to Ratlam and spoke to the then deputy chief security commissioner who is now the RPF chief of Ratlam. I requested him to reinstate me at my post. Instead of helping me, he demanded Rs 10,000 as bribe. I was in no condition to pay this at that time,” added Panicker.
Panicker had earlier served as a member of Rajiv Gandhi’s security retinue in 1984. at the time, he worked in the Railway Protection Special Force. “My father had fought for the country, and yet this is the kind of treatment that was meted out to his son. When I told him that I was unable to pay the money he had asked for, he asked his staff to push me out,” he added.
Since that year, Panicker has been fighting for justice. “My erstwhile colleagues now hold posts of inspector, but I am just doing petty work at the RPF commissioner’s office in Mumbai Central,” he rued. He was posted in Mumbai in 2005, and here too he wrote a complaint to the railway minister, requesting an enquiry.
“I have been de-categorised. I am unable to run my family due to my poor income. I feel small in front of my relatives,” he said.
With his back against the wall, Panicker has decided to start a fast unto death at Churchgate, opposite the WR GM’s office, from 10 am on the eve of Independence Day. “In case of any bereavement, my corpse should be given to the senior official who spoiled my life and career. He can profit from the sale of my corpse,” he added.
Anil Sharma, chief security commissioner, CR, said, “Action taken on him was legal and done in the right way. But everybody has a right to protest in the country and so does he.”