The last big radiation scare in Delhi was reported five years ago when one person was killed and eight others were hospitalised after exposure to radioactive substances at the Mayapuri scrap yard in west Delhi.
The radioactive substance leaked from Delhi University equipment auctioned to scrap dealers in Mayapuri.
“Radiation detectors were installed in the area after the incident but they were removed around one-and-a-half years back,” said Anand Bansal, a scrap dealer and a friend of Deepak Jain, the victim.
Little else has changed since then. Himanshu Jain, who was only 19 years old when the incident took place, was back to dealing in scrap in his father’s shop after spending two weeks in hospital.
His mother, who suffered from paralysis, died of shock when told the radiation exposure could kill her son.
“Except for the fact that the road here has been cemented for VIP visits, our lives are still the same. Apart from that, we still do what we used to,” said Himanshu’s father Jai Kishen Jain.
Ajay Jain, whose right leg was severely affected because he kept a piece of Cobalt-60 in his right hip-pocket, had to undergo 11 surgeries, which cost the family Rs. 17-18 lakh.
“How can I accept Rs. 2 lakh as compensation? They should at least pay for my treatment,” he said adding that he was given an interim compensation of Rs. 4 lakh when he had filed a court case. The case is still being heard.
Ram Niwas, another scrap dealer who owns a shop in the same lane, said: “When something like this happens, important people come here and get their photographs clicked with a few dealers. Otherwise, no one cares.”
When the Cobalt-60 was traced to an equipment from DU, the victims were offered a compensation package of Rs. 2 lakh. Most of them refused it.
“They priced our lives and health at Rs. 2 lakh. What about all that we have lost?” said Himanshu Jain.
“In 2010, the government reacted to the radiation leak only because the Commonwealth Games were taking place later that year and they needed to contain the situation. Otherwise, nobody thinks about us,” said Jai Kishen Jain.