Nagpur: Despite constitutional protections, Kumar Kalbande, a government employee in Nagpur who is both disabled and queer, is faced with alleged discrimination. Formerly a junior technical assistant at the Forest Survey of India’s Nagpur branch, Kumar sought help from political leaders and legal channels to no avail. Feeling trapped in a cycle of “injustice”, he has appealed to the court for passive euthanasia as a last resort due to “systemic failures to address his suffering”.
For three years, Kumar has gone unpaid, while his medical expenses, compounded by a 50% locomotor disability and surviving Covid, have become overwhelming. Despite support from friends and parents, he feels like a burden and sees passive euthanasia as his only option.
Kumar’s sexual orientation was revealed at his FSI Nagpur office by his ex-boyfriend, leading to alleged harassment by Regional Director Chaturbhuja Behera.
The revelation resulted in his transfer to FSI Kolkata. Before the transfer, an accident left him with a disability. His situation worsened as FSI Nagpur allegedly failed to provide timely medical assistance.
Additionally, alleged inaccessible workplace at FSI Kolkata has left Kumar without proper accommodations despite his requests being denied.
During a telephonic conversation, Kumar told The Mooknayak, with his voice choking, he recounted the challenges he has faced. He repeatedly emphasized how being queer feels like a criminal offense in this country.
It all began during the pandemic. “In December 2020, shortly after filing a police complaint of abuse against my ex-partner, I fell ill. The Corona virus infection was so severe that it required hospitalization. During this period, my former partner began sharing our private conversations with my supervisor,” he alleged.
Soon, he said, his sexuality was being used against him. “Pamphlets, disclosing my sexuality, began circulating in the office. I had to pay hefty medical bills. My application for an advance payment to bear the medical expenses was abruptly halted. To make matters worse, my salary was stopped without any prior notice,” he narrated.
Kumar stated, “The regional director of the Forest Survey of India’s Nagpur branch claimed that I was faking my medical diagnosis and ordered me to go for field work in January, 2021. I informed my superiors about my situation and without refusing to comply with the order, I tried to convince them about my medical condition. I told them I am medically unfit to travel.”
Behera, alleged Kumar, dismissed his assertions as mere “hallucinations”. He said he had got the transfer order via email, which raised his suspicion.
“My colleagues later revealed that I was being subjected to office politics. I was soon barred from entering office premises. I wrote to my director general who also talked to my regional director in March of 2021, telling him not to stop my salary as it is illegal. But the regional director did not budge. Things started to affect both my physical and mental health. I put up another application, asking him if a disciplinary measure is supposed to be taken against me, get it done after suspending me so that I at least receive allowance to help my towering medical bills but in vain,” he alleged.
Left with no alternative, he said, he lodged a complaint with the then Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, mentioning the “false” accusations and “attempts to remove” him from the service during the pandemic.
In May, he said, he was contacted by the Deputy Director General of Forests who asked him to meet in his office. “I complied and briefed him about my situation. He assured me that my statement would be taken into account,” he said.
Following the meeting, said Kumar, an inquiry was conducted. The Deputy Director General issued a directive to my supervisor, instructing him not to withhold his salary. “However, to my dismay, I discovered shortly afterward that I was being transferred to the Kolkata office,” he said.
Kumar said there was no transfer order or relieving order. “I was only informed via mail. I was still okay with it. I decided that I would just handover charges, receive the pending salary and then go,” he said.
Simultaneously, he filed a case against his supervisor at the Nagpur bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal in October 2022. “I have even approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in January 2023; but till now, my application is pending there. No one has even acknowledged my sexuality or the fact that the problems are being caused because of that,” he alleged.
Seeking justice, Kumar met with Minister of Forest Bhupender Yadav and claimed to have secured letters of support from Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and other MPs and MLAs.
“Initially, the politicians extended their solidarity with me”, Kumar said, “but once my office informed them of my sexual orientation, their attitude towards me drastically changed. It is as if they do not want a gay man to be employed in a government office”.
Till now, there has been no relief for Kumar.
“On January 4, the NHRC issued a letter to the Department of Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, to which they responded by saying I am the one who is not obeying the transfer order. However, I had already said I did not have any problem with the transfer. It is just that I do not have the money to relocate,” he said.
Kumar has sought assistance from various bodies, including the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the NHRC, the National Commission of Other Backward Classes, the Court of Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, etc. “Still, I have not got any relief. None of these bodies acknowledged my homophobic harassment,” he alleged.
He said he never thought his parents’ retirement savings would be depleted in battling this “homophobic” system. “Witnessing the prolonged struggle that is my and my family’s mental health, I have asked for passive euthanasia,” he reasoned.