Over a month after his younger brother allegedly jumped off a tanker near Greece, Jayshankar Mahto says he is getting no help from the authorities investigating the case.
On February 19, Mahto’s brother Umashankar, 22, training as a sea cadet on board the Motor Tanker (MT) True, went missing. He has not been found, despite a 36-hour search by the Greek and Turkish Coast Guard and Navy.
Umashankar wrote in his diary that he was mentally tortured by his superior, the chief officer of the ship, Abhijeet Marathe. He wrote about his being abused in filthy language, often complained he went hungry and clearly said he could not go on with his life’s dream of proving himself to his parents and siblings. Umashankar’s diary and notings were sent to Mr. Mahto, who works in Pune.
At 4 a.m. on February 19, Umashankar 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 side railing near the life rafts was removed.
MT True has a Malta registration, and an inquiry will be conducted by the Maltese authorities. However, the Directorate General of Shipping, India too has to conduct an inquiry. Mr. Mahto says, “I have been making phone calls to the Director General of Shipping but they keep putting me off on one pretext or the other. They told me to file a police complaint. I went to the Yellowgate station and filed a complaint on February 23, 2012. However, the police did not know under which section to register it and said how can they file a complaint about a cadet who jumped off the ship in Greek/Turkish waters.”
A frustrated Mahto then wrote to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which on March 14 issued notice to the authorities concerned to file a report within four weeks on the case. Meanwhile Mr. Mahto has been chasing the shipping authorities and also the police.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Port Zone) Tanaji Ghadge says he is not sure how a case can be registered under Indian law. He has asked Mr. Mahto to file another complaint in writing, citing the sections of the law which can be used.
Instead of the law helping him, Mr. Mahto has had to dig out the correct law under which he can seek redress. He says that the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 can be used to file a complaint of harassment and mental torture leading to his brother’s possible suicide.
In addition, an inquiry report has been sent to the Directorate General of Shipping by the Indian embassy in Turkey to assist in the investigation. Mr. Mahto said that despite the embassy confirming this to him via email, the authorities here denied they had received such a report.
Mr. Mahto says, “I am not getting any support from Director General, Shipping, and Andromeda, the agents, for investigation of my missing brother. They are hiding something. They have the Indian embassy investigation report but they are hiding it and saying they don’t have any report till now. My brother met with harassment and torture aboard the ship, and he wrote 14 pages in his diary which is strong evidence of mental and physical torture by the chief officer.”
The Director General of Shipping Gautam Chatterjee did not respond to calls or messages. Mr. Ghadge says he needs to know under which section the case can be registered and he would be willing to do so.
A day before he went missing, Umashankar wrote in his diary that he could not tolerate mental torture from everyone. He keeps saying he wants to learn something and he wants to become someone. He says he will die hungry. He also says he is not a thief and it is too difficult to handle a person who shouts like a lion. He also accuses the chief officer of spoiling his relations with the rest of the crew, apart from other things and pleads with him not to mentally torture him. He finally asks God to save him.