27-year wait has finally borne fruit: Indian engineer

July 9th, 2008 - 11:04 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
(To go with Indian gets $10,665 compensation after 27-year battle)

Kollam (Kerala), July 9 (IANS) Ajay Bhaskar has been physically challenged for 27 years after meeting with an accident in Saudi Arabia while he was working as a civil engineer there. He finally has a reason to smile after being awarded 40,000 Saudi riyals ($10,665) after a long-drawn legal battle. Recalling the accident in Riyadh that changed his life, Bhaskar told IANS that he is happy that all the efforts made by him and a few Indian embassy officials in Riyadh paid off, though it took a long time.

“I went to Saudi Arabia armed with a diploma in civil engineering and a dream of making it big in life because I had heard several success stories of people who had gone there. But in 13 months after reaching there, my dreams turned upside down following an accident that occurred around 2 a.m. on March 26, 1981. That shattered everything,” said 49-year-old Bhaskar.

Bhaskar was a 22-year-old engineer working for Poken Arabia Contracting Company, when he met with the accident while he was on his way to the oasis city of Ha’il in northwestern Saudi Arabia from Jeddah.

While two of his colleagues - Narayan Dutt Joshi and Philipose - died in the accident, Bhaskar slipped into a coma for eight months.

“Since I worked in a company that had many American employees, and with my condition being really bad, they decided to take me to the US for treatment. But it did not happen because I was told that while I was being transported, I regained consciousness when the vehicle reached the spot where the accident had taken place. Then i was brought to my home here,” Bhaskar said.

He had then to sell his land to get himself treated so that he could be capable of doing some kind of work to fend for himself and his family. He now runs a telephone booth in this town to make ends meet.

“Now I have improper vision, my hands tremble and my memory is poor. I have my wife and my 13-year-old son to look after and my only income is what I get from my telephone booth, which is difficult for us to survive on. Now I have got this compensation and we have decided to put the entire money in the bank,” he said.

Bhaskar was handed over the compensation cheque on June 25 by the Kollam district collector.

He said that he continued his legal battle, despite all odds. He revealed that he has written letters appealing for help to almost every Indian prime minister right from Late Indira Gandhi to Manmohan Singh.

“It was not until three years back that I first realised that my compensation was within a hand’s reach and for that I am greatly indebted to V.V. Narayanan, who was then an Indian embassy official in Riyadh. He traced all my papers and did everything. The first person I called after receiving the money was Narayanan, who is now in the Indian embassy in London,” said Bhaskar.

A determined Bhaskar said he would now try and get some compensation from the Saudi Arabian government too since the 40,000 Saudi riyals was from his company.

“I am told that the work I was doing when I met with the accident is now one of the premier technical schools in Saudi Arabia. You know I was in charge of the site, I did the preliminary survey work, lay out, built the compound wall and now it has become a premier institution. If they realiSe my condition, the Saudi government will surely come to my help,” Bhasker said with tears in his eyes.

“All I want is a small monthly pension and if I could wait for 27 years to get compensation from my company, I will wait for my pension too.”

P. Balachander, the Indian embassy official in Riyadh, told IANS by phone that getting compensation for Bhaskar was also possible due to the consistent follow-up of the case by the mission.

“After receiving the money, Bhaskar got in touch with us and he even sent us an email today,” Balachander said.

While Bhaskar is happy that he has finally received the money, he admitted that it would have made a huge difference if he had got it years ago.

“Do you know if I had got this money 27 years back, I could have bought two acres of land and now one cent of land here cost Rs.500,000,” he said.

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