In 2006,a driver with the fire brigade,without caring for his life,entered the premises of a filling station in Mangalwar Peth that had caught fire and drove an LPG-laden truck away from the fire preventing loss of life and property. Two years later,the Presidents Medal was announced for Dnyaneshwar Khedekar but barely two weeks later,he died on duty after his fire tender overturned.
In 2010,his wife was handed over a medal by the Mayor. And now,after yet another two years,much to the familys dismay,the fire brigade has admitted to the family that the medal given then was not the actual one but a memento and the actual medal will be awarded by the Governor soon.
Khedekars younger brother Anil recalls,The entire petrol pump was in flames. My brother had gone there on a fire tender. As the fire spread,someone shouted that an LPG carrier was standing there. Someone started calling for the driver of the carrier but he had disappeared. My brother jumped into the drivers cabin,which had caught fire by then and drove it to an isolated place. I still remember the tears in my mothers and sister-in-laws eyes when they saw the burns on Dyaneshwars hands.
On January 25,2008 the Presidents medal was announced for Khedekar for meritorious service. On February 9,Khedekar died when the fire tender overturned in Bhukum Ghat.
Anil says,About two years after that,in April 2010,my sister-in-law was handed over a medal by the Pune mayor. We did have doubts then that the medal was different from the ones generally given. We had seen many such medals awarded to other firefighters. We kept contacting the chief fire officer,Prashant Ranpise and he kept saying it was the actual medal. We showed it to a retired senior fire officer a month ago. He told us that the actual medal comes directly from the mint. It can be never like the medal that was given. The memento even has some Marathi words inscribed on it.
Secretary,fire services,Maharashtra,M V Deshmukh,was contacted when the matter was brought to the notice of Newsline by Khedekars son Kishore who now works with the fire brigade.
Deshmukh asked Ranpise to report to him with the memento given to Khedekar and two others. On Wednesday,Deshmukh told Newsline,I have seen the mementos given to three of these persons. I have to tell you that the actual medal is yet to be given to them. We have now asked for time from the Governor. He will give away the medals.
When contacted,Ranpise said that since the medals had come to them from the state government,they thought they were the actual medals leading to the confusion.