During my stay at the Wheeler Island for the maiden A2P launch, most of my movements within were in taxis. For a first-time visitor, this place can be little confusing. To top it all, you can’t have access to all areas, and even you have one, you have to go through very tight security checks.
I met Jagadish Giri – the focus of this concluding part of Agni Sakshi series – at the Wheeler Island. He is just over 5.5. feet, well-mannered and sporting a child-like smile always. He kept the car (Tata Indica) neat and tidy. As my acquaintance with him grew, I realized that Giri had only hand. To be precise only one palm! You could hardly make out any issues with his driving and he ensured that the sleeves are always down, covering the left hand.
The drivers in Bhubaneswar, Dhamra, and Balasore refer a missile launch as ‘firing’ and anyone with a defense ID or linked to DRDO\SFC\Indian Army is seen as a ‘firing officer.’ In that sense my new designation -- at least among the driving force was – a firing officer. When in Rome, be a Roman!
Giri (30) barely uttered a word unless you asked him something. His left hand palm got chopped-off completely in an accident in 2003. He was working with a plastic-manufacturing plant in Hyderabad then. He was just 23 then. He came back to Bahanaga village (30 km from Balasore) and had tough time for the next two years managing with one palm. His father (53) and mother (50) are both farmers and he has an elder brother is yet to be married.
DRDO hires taxi-operators whenever there’s a launch campaign either at Wheeler Island or at Balasore. The taxis are loaded on to huge barges and are brought to Wheeler Island whenever a launch program is on.
Giri has studied till 7th Class and gets paid around Rs 3,000 every month. What makes him different is probably his undying passion for India’s missile programs. “Sir, I feel bad whenever the firing fails. These people put lot of effort. If the firing is success, we sometime get special lunch from the canteen,” says Giri. His knowledge of India’s missile programs is definitely far better than that of some of the table-top journalists of my era. He knows exactly the hits and misses of all recent launches.
Giri took me to the Prithvi Point and Island temple along with a DRDO official. I was stunned by the way he was putting the gear, which a normal driver would do with his left hand. I asked him whether it pained him every time he pushed the gear with a pound of flesh, now healed. “No Sir, now it doesn’t. I am used to it,” Giri said in Hindi, with a typical Odiya slang.
While I was leaving the Wheeler Island, he was very eager to carry my luggage to the boat, which was packed by scientists and security personnel. I kept some money in his pocket. “Sir, will you come for the next firing?” he asked. I nodded.
That was on December 10, 2010. Back in Bangalore, I started a mission to check the background of Giri and his family. I tracked down his bank and even spoke to the manager. When Tarmak007’s mission was explained to the manager, he too was ever willing to step-in.
After reading this piece, if you are convinced that Jagadeesh Giri deserves help, then please join Tarmak007’s mission in raising some funds for Giri. May be with your help, we could help him get back an artificial palm that will make his life and driving easier. May be with your help, this farmer-son could organize his brother’s marriage and later find a partner for himself too. If we support this simple soul now, may be his life will be different from tomorrow.
Jagadish Giri holds a bank account at State Bank of India (SBI) Gopalpur Branch, near Balasore. The bank manager Mr Rama Kant Sethi has confirmed all the credentials of Giri to the blogger and as of last week his account had a balance of around Rs 2,400. Here are Giri’s bank details, if you may wish to help him.
FOR ELECTRONIC TRANSFER: Name: Jagadish Giri; Bank: SBI, Gopalpur Branch; A/c No: 30748374133; IFSC Code: SBIN0012053.
FOR COURERING A CHEQUE: Mr Jagadish Giri, A/c No 30748374133, C/o Branch Manager, State Bank of India, Gopalpur Branch, Gopalpur (P.O.), Balasore (Dist), Orissa. PIN: 756 044
BANK DETAILS: Manager: Rama Kant Sethi; Telephone Numbers: 06788 237055\237050; Manager’s Mobile Numbers: 099373 10542; 094370 13538
That’s all from Tarmak007’s Wheeler Island mission. Hope you enjoyed reading the Agni Sakshi series. Hope you will extend a helping hand to Giri, who drives around India’s missile scientists and engineers with one hand and tonnes of passion. After all, this 'missile man’ of a different kind needs a little help from all of us.
(Your comments on Agni Sakshi series may be emailed
to firstname.lastname@example.org. The series concludes.)
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