As a result of MSRTC authorities’ decision to sack a 41-year-old driver after he was detected HIV positive, his son has had to leave his education to support the family. The son, who is educated till HSC, now works as a security guard.
His father was left out in the cold by MSRTC after 11 years of service; MSRTC tagged the driver unfit for the job on the grounds that he was HIV positive. The issue once again highlights how HIV awareness is restricted only to campaigns and is virtually non-existent in real life. As the driver was the only breadwinner in the family, his near and dear ones are now struggling to fulfil even the basic necessities of life. Now, the driver’s wife is forced to work as a daily wages labourer, earning hardly Rs 50 per day.
She said, “Due to rain it is hard to get work every day. My son is very sharp in academics but recently has started working as a watchman. We don’t think from now we can afford his further education.” The ST driver had joined service on February 18, 1999. After eight years of service, he was detected with TB and he had to take six months’ leave.
“After getting detecting with TB, MSRTC had sent me to the Bel-Air Hospital, Panchgani. I took proper treatment for one month and got successfully cured from TB, but a few days later, after taking all the tests from Sassoon hospital, HIV was detected,” the driver said. In the medical report, Sassoon has mentioned: “He is unfit to work as driver on heavy vehicle, but can do light duties.” After that the driver applied for duties in depot parking, control point and for the post of peon, but MSRTC did not consider his application.
Even Transport Minister Gulbrao Devkar had ordered the rehabilitation of the driver by giving him some optional duty. The driver then joined as a peon at the depot, but after five days MSRTC again terminated his services on the grounds of his being unfit. The driver said, “This time they have not given any reason. After I got detected with HIV, senior officers are giving me very humiliating treatment. My staff is now not even ready to talk or share food with me.”
Dilip Parab, Pune Divisional Secretary, ST Labour Union, said, “For other severe diseases like paralysis, TB, cancer, diabetes, heart attack, there are provisions of MSRTC. Driver can get paid leave up to a year-and-half. If the employee expires during the duty, then on compassionate grounds his son can get service. But there is no provision or compensation for HIV. I think in the case of HIV, management considers it is the fault of the victim. It is the first case of HIV in ST, so we are planning to demand that HIV should included in the list of diseases.”
Ashok Jadhav, Pune Divisional Controller of MSRTC, said, “According to provisions, light duty can be provided to the driver in case of 40 per cent disability. HIV is not a disability. For giving light duties, provision should be moulded by MSRTC’s high authority and it is not in our jurisdiction. Driving heavy vehicles is a very stressful job and considering the driver’s weakness doctors have given him an unfit certificate. It is not on the basis of HIV.”
Manoj Pardeshi, board member, Network of Maharashtra People Living with HIV, said, “We are going to send legal notice to MSRTC officials. Despite HIV, a person can work efficiently. There are many cases in which HIV positive victims are working for many years and living normal life. The government is spending crores of rupees for the awareness of HIV and being a government institution, MSRTC is discriminating against the driver. If MSRTC dose not take any action we will file a case in court.”