MUMBAI: A year after the bomb blast in a local train at Khar Road severely incapacitated 22-year-old Chirag Chauhan, life is still a big challenge for him. He cannot go out without help and is Prone to frequent infections.
Chirag, who was paralysed chest down after an injury to his spinal cord, was a bit reluctant to give an interview. He is planning to appear for his C.A. examinations in August if all goes well. “I am moving around and I have been given a wheel chair by a private company,” he said.
On the first anniversary of the seven serial blasts on July 11, 2006 in Mumbai’s suburban railway network, the city will remember how it was brought to a standstill by terrorism on that day though not for the first time. BJP leader L.K. Advani will visit Chirag’s house on Wednesday, and the Western Railway too will mark the day by bringing back one of its coaches mangled in the blast, back into service.
The serial blasts claimed 187 lives and injured nearly 900 people, many of them severely. Chirag fought a battle for survival in a private hospital for two months and has had an operation to correct his hearing. Before the blast, he had completed 11 months of his articleship to become a chartered accountant.
The only son in the family, Chirag has three sisters. His family was completely shattered after the incident. Even now, family sources said, things were very difficult. “We are praying for a miracle that will make him to normal,” said the sources. While the Railways paid for his hospital stay, subsequent expenses had to be borne by the family. The Railways also is giving a job to one of his sisters but things are yet to be finalised. Chirag has to undergo physiotherapy, and medical expenses are there to stay. Yet, the family does not believe in asking for help.
Like Chirag’s family, Dinesh Singh is also hoping for a miracle to bring back his son Amit, who has been in a coma since the blast. Amit is still in a private hospital and his father wishes that the doctors will take some expert opinion that can change the way his son is being treated. A final-year B. Com student, Amit was on his way to pick up some forms from his college when the blast changed the way he would live forever. Twenty-eight-year-old Parag Sawant is also in a coma in a private hospital. His relative Suresh Salunkhe said that the hospital authorities were demanding Rs. 3.5 lakh to Rs. 4 lakh for a surgery in the spinal cord. However, the family was not able to raise the money and the Railways was not willing to pay it.
Parag’s wife was pregnant when the blasts occurred. Since then she has given birth to a daughter, whom Parag has not been able to see. While the Western Railway says that it has done its best for the victims and has made sure that all hospital bills are cleared, the BJP has been pointing out discrepancies in the payment of compensation and dues. Till date 530 claims have been registered with the Railway Claims Tribunal and in five sittings it has disposed of 211 cases and paid an amount of Rs.6.94 crores. The Railways has said it has paid Rs.22.44 crore in ex-gratia payments, medical payments and Tribunal claims.
However, the BJP has said that of the 1,077 victims and their families, 416 are still running around to get their dues. About 225 people require hearing aids, surgeries and artificial limbs and 200 are yet to get any financial help. Forty four persons had been given jobs by the Railways, as promised.
Victims complained that even though they suffered from severe Disability, the Railways was not willing to waive its rule that jobs would be given only to the next of the kin of those dead or badly injured in the blasts. Vinaya Palav has to support two daughters and her injuries in the blast have left her without a job. Her right hand and left leg have been fractured and she needs Rs.500 to Rs.1,000 a month for injections alone. “I cannot find a job and no one is willing to give me one with my disabilities,” she said.
For those who survived the blasts, life is nowhere near normal. Many of them are contending with severe disability, bureaucratic apathy and loss of jobs. While the Government has promised to pay all the dues, victims are still to get any solace.
Life still a big challenge for survivors of July 2006 Mumbai serial train blasts
Of the 1,077 victims and their families, 416 are still running around to get dues: BJP
Some of the injured require lakhs of rupees for surgery and treatment