Camera: Sanjoy Deb
Editor: Veeru Krishan Mohan
When 49-year-old Ramesh Kurhade single handedly took on the government rule to link Aadhaar with salary accounts, he wasn’t prepared for the long battle that lay ahead.
But the Mumbai Port Trust employee’s fight for his right to privacy paid off in July 2019 when he won a legal battle to secure his salary that was stopped for months.
Since 2015, the Mumbai Port trust asked its over 9,000 employees to submit their Aadhaar details. While most submitted theirs, Ramesh Kurhade and a few other employees, refused.
However, once the organisation informed its staff that salaries of those who didn’t submit their details would be withheld from July 2016, almost everyone fell in line. Everyone, except Ramesh Kurhade.
“People kept telling me that Aadhaar is just a piece of paper but I knew that wasn’t the case. It was my personal identity and private and I didn’t want to disclose it. I tried to explain this to people but no one understood. They didn’t even know what Aadhaar was. That’s why, no one was ready to join my fight. My friends asked me not to be crazy and asked what the problem was in just submitting a piece of paper, after all, everyone else had.”Ramesh Kurhade, employee, Mumbai Port Trust
“My fight against Aadhaar, wasn’t targeted against a government. I fought for my right that I am entitled to according to the Indian constitution,” he added.
But the fight wasn’t easy. Once the Mumbai Port Trust stopped paying Kurhade’s salary from July 2016, he was worried and soon forced to break into his savings and also borrow money from credit societies and friends.
“I thought maybe the government would wake up and pay my salary, that I had earned after working hard, that had nothing to do with Aadhaar. I thought the government would have some sympathy and abide by the law and consult a lawyer and give me my money, but they didn’t. I waited till October,” recounted Kurhade. Adding that,
“I had started saving money in 2015 and it struck me that if I didn’t get my salary soon, then I would have to use that money to survive, fund my children’s education, run my family and pay my EMIs. These savings and FDs came to my rescue. I also borrowed from credit societies.”Ramesh Kurhade, employee, Mumbai Port Trust
But despite being taunted for sticking to his stand, Ramesh Kurhade refused to budge. He was even transferred from his position at work and shifted to a different department. But Kurhade, who was inspired by the principles of Dr Shanti Patel, a veteran freedom fighter and the former mayor in Mumbai, was unfazed.
“They used to say, ‘if this man isn’t getting his salary for so many months, then he must be doing something wrong outside?’ Only I knew how hard I was fighting for my right, facing this problem and how I was staying patient. Since my kids were planning on pursuing higher education then, I needed money to fund their studies,” recounts Kurhade.
Ramesh Kurhade found himself a step closer to victory after the Supreme Court order in 2018 struck down the need to link Aadhaar with bank account. After 29 months of working without pay, Kurhade finally received his salary. He then filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court and won 7.5 per cent arrears of the salary owed to him.
“In the final hearing, the court ruled that the Mumbai Port Trust’s reason to withhold my salary was wrong, their decision to not respond to any of my mails was wrong as well and the court agreed that the port trust was wrong in stopping my salary. That’s why Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Kathawalla ordered the port trust to pay me an interest of 7.5 percent. This was a victory of my principles and ethics.”Ramesh Kurhade, employee, Mumbai Port Trust
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)