John Pinto, 26/11 hero, works relentlessly with an aim that the deceased are buried, cremated or repatriated with dignity. This is the first part of a three-part series
On the night of 26/11, when most Indians were busy switching from one news channel to another, when concerned relatives were calling or messaging furiously to their loved ones in Mumbai to take stock of their safety, when people were reluctant to step out of the comfort of their houses and risk their lives, there was one man and his organisation working 24x7 to fulfil a duty of giving "dignity to the dead" who fell victim to the carnage.
Meet John Pinto, the undertaker from Byculla, central Mumbai. Assisted by his wife Edna Pinto and staff of about 70-odd people, Mr Pinto undertook the responsibility of cremating, burying or repatriating about (approximately) 180 bodies from the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attack.
Mr Pinto told Moneylife, "Dealing with 180-odd bodies in five days was quite a task. We didn't sleep for five nights. We were working round-the-clock. We had about 10 bodies left on the fifth day because some family members were supposed to come in. Finally, after five days, we said that we are not doing anything but sleeping. We gave everyone six hours sleep. At 12 o'clock, we asked them (staff) to go to sleep and 7 o'clock we woke them up and then our work started again."
Dealing with an average of 15 cases per day, Mr and Mrs Pinto said they were not overwhelmed by the huge task that lay ahead of them. At that time, when one would dread coming to Mumbai, Mr Pinto said his staff from all over the country came to assist the couple in clearing work with just one sole aim in mind - that the victims had to receive dignified funerals.
Mrs Pinto explained, "Dignity to a dead person - that is the bottom line of everything we do. Every case is important to us. The poorest of the poor or the richest of the rich - both are the same for us. It's like someone who is your own. It has to be done with dignity. There should be no hiccups. Then everyone is happy."
The Pintos were greatly in demand during the 26/11 attack as they specialise in repatriating bodies. They handled about 95% of the victims who had perished during the attack. The Pintos marvel at preserving and embalming bodies for their journey back to their home countries. "The most difficult thing in repatriation is embalming of bodies. They have to be absolutely of international standards. All the bodies (of the 26/11 attacks) were mutilated. There were gunshot wounds and all the bodies were in bad shape. Some were burnt. We ensured that the bodies looked as close to normal as possible," said Mr Pinto.
The cost of repatriating bodies to a foreign nation depends on the part of the country the body is being sent, and the weight of the body. For example, if a body weighing around 60 kg has to be sent to Los Angeles, it will cost between Rs1,20,000 and Rs1,35,000, including all the costs for embalming and embassy formalities. The documents required are the death certificate and the passport.
It was this service to the community that earned Mr Pinto one of Britain's highest honours for civilians - the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). It is awarded to overseas citizens who have made a strong and sustained contribution in their country to the British community. While bestowing the MBE, Peter Beckingham, British deputy high commissioner in Mumbai, mentioned the "dignity with which Pinto handled the bodies of the 26/11 victims and the way the bodies were preserved so that they could be identified by the next of kin."
But for the Pintos, the tragedy and its aftermath still resound in their minds. Mrs Pinto said, "You can't compare it with any of the other things that have happened in Bombay. The city was in a state of shock. The bodies kept coming in. We had people coming in soaked with blood. They tried to take some of the injured to hospital, but a few died on the way. It was a difficult situation altogether."
If their deeds were lost in the aftermath of the tragedy, it was the Pintos who consciously kept the media away. Mrs Pinto told Moneylife, "We (deliberately) kept the press out. We did not allow anyone inside. That way, people were more comfortable and happy as they were themselves miserable and if a question is asked, they would not have liked it at all. And if you come with a big camera, it's worse. People wanted their privacy. They were in a state of shock."
But the Pintos are not complaining. It's the satisfaction on the face of their customers that matters to them. Mrs Pinto said, "We handled so many bodies of different nationalities, all of the same type. It was five days of non-stop work. But, they (the kin of the dead) knew we were doing our best... and that was enough for us."
It was a day of the heavyweights, surging on buying interest, after a lull seen on Tuesday. Early support came from the global front, indicating that steps taken by various governments are yielding results albeit at a slow pace. The indices finally ended with gains of over 1.3% today.
The local market opened higher on cues from its Asian peers that were trading with good gains today. Overcoming minor hiccups, when the indices touched their lows, the market set off on its northward journey on buying in blue-chip stocks. The gains were reinforced by the European markets opening firm. The market settled near the highpoint of the day.
At close of trade, the Sensex stood at 20,688, a jump of 484.54 points (2.40%). The bellwether index touched a high of 20,704 and a low of 20,211 during the day. The Nifty ended at 6,234, surging 143 points (2.35%) today. The barometer swung between a high-low of 6,240 and a low of 6,089, intraday.
The gainers overpowered the losers today. The 30-stock Sensex list had 28 gainers, one loser and one stock ended unchanged. The Nifty had 46 advancing stocks, two stocks ended lower while two ended flat. Among the broader indices, the BSE Mid-cap index was up 0.99% and the BSE Small-cap index advanced 1.06%.
The star performers on the Sensex were HDFC (up 4.60%), TCS (up 4.56%), Wipro (up 4.48%), Larsen & Toubro (L&T) (up 4.04%) and Jaiprakash Associates (up 4.01%). NTPC was the lone loser, down 1.26%.
The gainers in the sectoral space were BSE IT (up 3.15%), BSE TECk (up 2.72%), BSE Capital Goods (up 2.68%), BSE Realty (up 2.51%) and BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 2.29%). There were no red ticks in the sectoral space today.
The finance ministry today said it will provide equity support of about Rs8,700 crore to public sector banks, a move that will enable lenders to raise funds from the capital market without diluting the government holding to below 51%.
In the first tranche the government has approved capital infusion of Rs6,211 crore in the five public sector banks announced in June this year. As much as Rs8,789 crore would be part of second tranche.
Asian markets closed trade in the green on positive economic data from the region. Japanese core machinery orders rose more-than-expected in August while the Chinese government asserted that it would take steps to enhance rural housing through affordable construction material.
The Shanghai Composite was up 0.70%, Hang Seng jumped 1.45%, Jakarta Composite surged 1.82%, KLSE Composite rose 0.70%, Nikkei 225 added 0.16%, Straits Times was up 1.68%, Seoul Composite advanced 0.43% and Taiwan Weighted closed 0.20% higher.
The US market closed in the positive terrain on Tuesday as minutes of the 21st September Federal Reserve meeting that were released indicated that the central bank will take new steps to boost the economy as unemployment continued to be a major concern. Investors hope the Fed will unveil additional stimulus measures at its November meeting.
The Dow rose 10.06 points (0.09%) to 11,020. The S&P 500 rose 4.45 points (0.38%) to 1,169. The Nasdaq rose 15.59 points (0.65%) 2,417.
The Adani Group has started talks with Coal India Ltd (CIL) to take on board the state-owned company as a partner for developing the Australian mines that it recently bought in a Rs12,600 crore deal.
"Talks have opened up between an Adani Group firm and Coal India Ltd. Adani Group is seeking to rope in CIL for development of coal assets it recently bought in Australia for Rs12,600 crore. There could be an equity partnership as well," a market source privy to the development said.
Buying by foreign institutional investors was negated by selling by domestic institutional investors on Tuesday. The former were net buyers of stocks worth Rs455 crore while the latter sold equities worth 454 crore on the same day.
FMCG major Dabur (down 2.05%) has concluded the acquisition of Turkey-based personal care products maker Hobi Kozmetik Group, worth Rs324 crore. With the completion of this transaction, the Hobi Group has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dabur International, which in turn is the subsidiary of Dabur India.
This acquisition will further enable consolidating and expanding Dabur's presence in the Middle East and North Africa. Further, the acquisition will offer the company an entry into an attractive new market like Turkey, and add to its portfolio a host of popular international brands that enjoy pole position in their respective categories.
India's largest lender, State Bank of India (SBI) (up 2.26%) has entered into a mobile service agreement with Western Union under which SBI accountholders will be able to receive cross-border money transfers in their bank accounts using their mobile phones.
The new service will enable SBI customers to send money from one of Western Union's 3,80,000 agent locations globally to an SBI account anywhere and at anytime.
State-run Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) (down 0.21%) today said it has filed the draft prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for its follow-on public offer (FPO).
The issue comprises a fresh issue of 42,345,365 shares by the company and an offer for sale of 42,345,365 shares by the Government of India.
New Delhi: The finance ministry today said it will provide equity support of about Rs8,700 crore to the public sector banks, a move that will enable lenders to raise funds from the capital market without diluting the government holding to below 51%, reports PTI.
"Next tranche of the capital infusion in the banks will be to raise government's holding in the public sector banks to certain level, which is being worked out," Department of Financial Services secretary R Gopalan said on the sidelines of Orient Grameen Swarojgar Card launch by Oriental Bank of Commerce here.
"So that at time when we are not in a position to fund them through budgetary resources they will be in position to go to the market and raise resources to beef up their Tier I position," he said.
The government is also conscious of Basel III requirement where addition Tier I capital has been prescribed, he added.
The government will look at those banks where government's holding is at minimum at 51%.
In the first tranche the government has approved capital infusion of Rs6,211 crore in the five public sector banks announced in June this year.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in his budget speech this year announced that the government planned a capital support of Rs15,000 crore to public sector banks during the current fiscal to ensure that these entities could attain a minimum 8% tier-I capital by 31 March 2011.
As much as Rs8,789 crore would be part of second tranche.
There are six public sector banks - Bank of Baroda, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Andhra Bank, Dena Bank, IDBI Bank and Vijaya Bank - where the government holding is less than 55%.
The Centre's holding in Bank of Baroda stands at 53.8%, Oriental Bank of Commerce at 51.1% while in case of Andhra Bank, it is 51.6%. In IDBI Bank, Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank, the government holding is 52.7%, 51.2% and 53.9% respectively.
When asked if the government had taken any decision on the State Bank of India's proposal of Rs20,000 crore rights issue, Mr Gopalan said, "we are still examining. We have not finalised the assessment."
On the operations of microfinance institutions in the country, Mr Gopalan said, "It is not possible for any one to control interest rates. It is just not feasible."
He added," As far as we are concerned Microfinance Institutions Regulation Bill is in the offing, which is under consultation with number of stakeholders. In that Bill we will never have a provision of control of interest rate, as it is not feasible."
When asked if the Bill was likely to be tabled in the upcoming winter session of Parliament, Mr Gopalan said, "It depends on number of legislative agenda there. We have finished consultation with stakeholders and we will have to look at taking it forward."