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Updated: February 28, 2013 02:28 IST

Indian sea cadet missing; his diary spoke of mental torture on ship

Special Correspondent
Comment (8)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Umashankar Mahto.
Special Arrangement Umashankar Mahto.

He is suspected to have jumped into the sea off Greece

Before he was suspected to have jumped into the sea off Greece, 22-year-old Umashankar Mahto wrote extensively in his diary of “mental torture” by the chief officer of m.t. True, who often abused him using filthy language. On several occasions, he complained he was hungry and clearly said he could not go on with his life’s dream of proving himself to his parents and siblings. Mahto’s diary and notings were sent to his elder brother Jayshankar who works in Pune.

At 4 a.m. on February 19, Mahto did not respond to a wakeup call and his cabin was locked. He could not be found anywhere on board and his life jacket and winter jacket were missing. The ship’s side railing near the life rafts had been removed. Mr. Noel Alphonso, General Manager of Andromeda Shipping India Pvt. Ltd., the agents who got Mahto his placement, told The Hindu on Wednesday that when the cadet was reported missing, the ship turned around and started search operations. The Hellenic Coastguard and Turkish vessels were involved in the operations and Mahto’s life jacket was located at night. The search resumed the next day but 36 hours after he was reported missing, the search was stopped.

Since the vessel MT True has a Malta registration, an inquiry will be conducted by the Maltese authorities. The ship is proceeding to Turkey now, Mr. Alphonso has said. The Directorate General of Shipping, India, will have its own inquiry. He did not comment on the contents of the diary written by Mahto.

Jayshankar Mahto said his younger brother received his Diploma in Nautical Science in Mumbai and was placed on board m.t. True, a part of the Geden Lines fleet of tankers. He joined on November 28, 2012. He called his father, a retired school principal in Jharkhand, on February 19 but said nothing to him about his mental state.

“My brother was abused, not given food, he was falsely accused of theft, and he was not allowed to move freely on board,” Mr. Jayshankar said. The family only knew all this once they read his diary which is indicative of the young man’s despair. In the last jotting, he wrote that he had learnt good manners from his parents and he thought of the chief officer as a father figure but he resorted to such filthy verbal abuse that he had only loathing left for being a cadet under him.

He apologised to his captain, his course mates and second and third officer and thanked them for their support, but he said he could not tolerate any more insults to his family. He pleaded with the chief officer not to do what he had done to him to any other cadet. He also referred to a “Sawant” who was kind to him and says he will not forget him.

Umashankar wrote that he came to fulfil his dreams and he just could not go home. He tells his mother that he is so broken. He apologises to his family and pleads with his seniors not to tell them about what happened on board. He says he does not know why such revenge is being taken for a little thing.

Mr Shivakumar's description of his employment at Essar is shocking, both for the barbarity of
the people involved and the apparent indifference of the employer, Essar. To the lawyers
and HR professionals out there, is there anything we can do to help mr Shivakumar?

from:  Srinivasan
Posted on: Mar 1, 2013 at 06:12 IST

The first comment in response to this news article itself is worthy of being higlighted as a separate news item and calls for an investigation to enquire into and expose the dark secrets of alleged slave traders in the Indian Merchant Navy who appear to operate with impunity with no fear of the law.

It is quite worrisome enough for families to suffer the angst of their bread earners who leave to serve the merchant navy for months on end. Now, to top the piracy threats of West going vessels, they now have to allegedly reckon with the inhuman work environment that arrogant shipping line management mete out to their subordinates.

There appears to be a clear case for suo moto order of inquiry by the Directorate General of Shipping in this specific case if only to salvage the questionable high reputation and lasting career that is promised in merchant navy for students of nautical and marine science and lay down mandatory real time foolproof ship to shore communication accesible to all.

from:  r n iyengar
Posted on: Feb 28, 2013 at 17:43 IST

The entire status that mr. shivkumar narrated is absoultely horrific..

from:  shivani
Posted on: Feb 28, 2013 at 15:08 IST

It is indeed a shameful act by such a big organisation. If the company
has any Human Resource Department, they should intervene and take up
appropriate measures to avoid such kind of gross violations. We are not
in the age of slavery and this definitely tantamounts to gross violation
of Human rights. Wake up Human Rights Stalwarts who have the power to
take up this issue at the appropriate forum. Please do something for
this man to atleast live his future in grace.

from:  vaidya nathan tr
Posted on: Feb 28, 2013 at 14:55 IST

i am second engineer in maersk line , whatever happen with umashankar is very bad and unacceptable in any condition . First of all i want to make clear about our Indian society that we talk big things but practically we do not have any human values , on other hand Europe , they talk less but have a lot human values .In this Case first of all captain has to go jail , he know everything what is going on so is the main culprit , and if he do not know what is going on then he is not fulfill his duty , have to terminate . Captain is responsible for all this , they know what is going on every where on board , they only just keep quite because if he have to take action then a lot paper work for which always captain and chief engineer avoid . So to bring justice to cadet Umashankar , put captain has to put in jail and chief officer CDC and COC have to cancelled and Inform to IMO , and inform to the country from where he got his CDC and COC .

from:  Paramjeet Singh
Posted on: Feb 28, 2013 at 13:53 IST

I am V. Shivakumar from Hyderabad, India.
I am requesting you to read my account of Essar Shipping’s horrendous violation of human rights causing permanent handicap resulting in loss of ALL livelihood to me. Essar Shipping is an Indian shipping company. Essar Ships are of indian flag and registry.
Essar Shipping’s ships call on ports in india and I urge you to stop them from loading and discharging cargo in your ports.
In my case, Essar Shipping have violated every tenet of human rights resulting in loss of ALL livelihood, for which they refuse to pay even a cent of compensation. Can you allow such a heinous violator of human rights in your country? Search your conscience, keep a hand on your heart and answer.
This is a plea to put an end to the operations of a serious human rights violator in your country – Essar Shipping, unless they are willing to mend their ways and not run a ‘sweat shop’. This hair- raising narrative describes how they have rendered me an unemployed cripple.
I am at present vegetating, incapable of performing any work. I cannot even hear phone calls due to profound hearing loss in both ears. This is as all the officers on board Essar’s ship M.V. (Motor Vessel) Nand Swasti, forced me to labour in the engine room disallowing the use of ear muffs. This savage, inhuman behaviour and wanton violation of human rights has resulted in permanent irreversible profound hearing loss in both ears. The impact is stunning – other than loss of ALL livelihood, I am totally cut off from society, having become non-participative in discussions, conversations. My social life is now crippled. I have no recourse to entertainment like music, films, radio as I cannot hear clearly despite wearing very powerful hearing aids. Hence, I cannot get a job ashore as I cannot even hear phone calls. I am now living in penury for no fault of mine. On top of all this, when I pleaded, Essar Shipping refused to pay me any compensation. Following is my narrative of the hellish torture I underwent on board M.V. (Motor Vessel) Nand Swasti, Essar Shipping.
I was inhumanly overloaded with work, and denied rest. Duty hours were unbearably long (16-18 hours a day) and I was forbidden from entering the officer’s smoke room, saying that I don’t deserve any leisure and entertainment.
Though 2nd Engineer Mr. Dhanapalan and 3rd Engineer Mr. Rangarajan were getting ‘shipkeeping allowance’ in ports, they insisted that I should keep watch throughout the day and night, on all days, 24x7.This, when I was brand new to shipping, as a 5th Engineer. In daytime while working, I would not even be allowed a single tea break.
As the ship was loading coal at Visakhapatnam or Paradip and discharging at Chennai , sailing was for hardly a day, two days. Then there would be port stay for at least 7-8 days. All these days I would have to keep watch continuously, as the ship was running under UMS (unattended machinery space) condition. I would have to keep watch (attend to alarms and phone calls) all day and then forced to do shipkeeping watch all night (attend to alarms). At night, I would also have to change deck crane grab motor seals.
Working impossibly long hours, I could sleep only 4 hours/day, from 12.00 a.m. to 4.00 a.m. Even in this period, I was expected to attend to alarms immediately. I used to be on tenterhooks while lying in my cabin bed. My mouth would go dry with fear, wondering whether the noise I was hearing was the engine room alarm or that made by the cranes, as both were similar. If I delayed by even a few seconds, confused as I was, the silence of my cabin would be shattered by the loud harsh jangle of the telephone, and I would hear the voice of the 2nd or 3rd Engineer at the other end, mouthing swear words and threatening to beat me up. The shipkeeping alarms were not located in my cabin, but in the 2nd and 3rd Engineer’s cabins. All this left me confused, semiconscious, and unable to sleep even for 4 hours. It was a nerve-wracking time.
The last straw was the ‘cabin-fire’ incident. The 2nd Engineer Mr. Dhanapalan, 3rd Engineer Mr. Rangarajan , and ’Senior’ 5th Engineer Mr. Anil Kumar Nair, had a ‘booze’ party with 3rd Engineer Mr. Radhakrishnan and 4th Engineer Mr. Ganeshan of M.V. Nand Shweta, a sister ship docked next to us at Paradip port, India. They partied in 2nd Engineer Mr. Dhanapalan’s cabin and while drinking alcohol, they vomited all over the cabin and set fire to the sofa and curtains. This, in a coal-carrying ship, at the coal-jetty in Paradip port. They called me to the cabin and physically assaulted me and forced me to wipe their vomit. It was revolting to see them vomiting, and my being forced to go down on all fours to wipe their stinking, still steaming vomit.
On top of all this, come morning, and the 2nd Engineer Mr. Dhanapalan asked me to clean his cabin once more, even though there was a steward for the job. I complained to the Chief Engineer Mr. R.Rajmohan Rao about it. As the Chief Engineer Mr. RR Rao said we should go and see the Captain Mr. Ambady, I felt calm and reassured that now everything is going to be okay. We came to the Captain’s office and he called us in and the Chief Engineer Mr. RR Rao informed the Captain Mr. Ambady about my complaint against the 2nd Engineer Mr. Dhanapalan asking me to clean his vomit-filthy cabin. Then began a bizarre ‘volte-face’. As I listened to them with my heart palpitating, the Captain and Chief Engineer started threatening me with dire consequences. They said they would tear my ‘CDC’(Continuous Discharge Certificate or seaman’s record book) and throw it into the sea. As I was by now sweating and trembling with fear, the 2nd Engineer Mr. Dhanapalan came in and he also started abusing me. The Captain and Chief Engineer then threw me to the wolves by telling the 2nd Engineer, in front of me, that he is free to order me to do any kind of work. They told me in front of the 2nd Engineer that if I refuse to clean the 2nd Engineer’s cabin, I cannot refuse to do any cleaning work in the engine room, for however long a time, which the 2nd Engineer might ask me to do. After being given such ‘carte-blanche’ powers, the 2nd Engineer Mr. Dhanapalan revengefully turned on me and ordered me to continuously clean the Generator Deck bilges. Bilges is the dark, dank, extremely noisy place, full of pipelines, running below the floorplates. Dawn to dusk, I was ordered not to show my face above the floorplates, forever cleaning the bilges with an oil soaked rag.
Forced to obey such brutal orders day after day, week after week, moth after month, my ears were assaulted (I was denied the use of ear muffs) by the extremely ear-shattering roar of high speed 4-stroke Auxiliary Engines. I begged for the use of ear muffs but I was denied them. Due to this, I still suffer from Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), and early termination of my sea career, and not able to get a job ashore also. I am now severely handicapped despite wearing very powerful hearing aids on both ears. I can’t even hear phone calls. I am without a livelihood and living in penury.
My mother has passed away. I need to look after my sick sister and 80-year old father. Where will I go for money without any chance of getting a livelihood?
I have suffered loss of wages. I suffer mental anguish and distress. I am socially crippled and cannot entertain myself as I cannot hear clearly radio, TV, music or films. Due to no livelihood and regular income, I have not been able to marry and raise children. I have suffered loss of conjugal life.
Therefore, I request you not to allow Essar Ships to load or discharge cargo in any port in india till they agree to pay me compensation. This will serve them right for torturing me and rendering me permanently handicapped and without a livelihood. I thank you utmost for your cooperation.

from:  v. shivakumar
Posted on: Feb 28, 2013 at 10:33 IST

This is heart breaking

from:  vinit
Posted on: Feb 28, 2013 at 09:30 IST

Indeed the sadest thing to be happened to Umashankar.Hope these sort of incidents,in particular in the departments of Navy,Army and like, don't take place in the future.

from:  sreenivasulu
Posted on: Feb 28, 2013 at 07:16 IST
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