Niranjan Sardar and his wife Sangeeta returned home to Akola a week ago, after Sardar underwent surgery to remove the two bullets that terrorists pumped into him at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus — one was lodged in his jaw, the other on the side of his head.
The 60-year-old cycle rickshaw driver now suffers from memory loss and faulty speech and is unfit for work. The compensation of Rs 50,000 is not going to sustain him for long — it’s not even enough to cover future medical expenses.
If there’s a silver lining to their story, it is that an organisation, the Bombay Committee for Public Trust, has adopted them and will help them monetarily.
Small success stories through citizens’ intervention have become possible after the state public health department launched an initiative creating a civic interface to help victims get their lives back on track.
Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work is coordinating this drive — for the last 20 days its 12 social work students have been surveying victims to understand their needs and to help them with rehabilitation. The information is, in turn, passed on to Mumbaiites who have signed on to help.
“They need jobs, financial help and counselling to get their lives back,” said 21-year-old Rabia Ahmed, who is part of the survey group. It was Ahmed who met the Sardars and put their requirements across to citizens willing to help.
Mary Colaso, Ahmed’s classmate, managed to get the government compensation of Rs 50,000 for Bapu Deewan, who was injured in the Nariman House firing. Deewan suffered shrapnel and knee injuries but could not get admitted to a government hospital because of curfew. “Once we got him registered as a victim, his surgery was done for free and he got compensation,” said Colaso.
The survey has helped six other victims get compensation.
The biggest challenge, however, is to ensure jobs for many of the injured. An electrician has lost his thumb, an autorickshaw driver the sensation in his hands and legs. Swayam Siddha Sanghatana, an organisation, has promised to help find employment for four such victims. Forty others still need help.
“An organisation, Team Lease, has offered to do skill assessments of those who need jobs. We have asked volunteers to get the assessment done and then we can forward the job requirements to those who can help,” explained Sunaina Bhatnagar, an assistant director, who with Bollywood director Imtiaz Ali is coordinating with citizens.
R. Sriram, founder of Crossword bookstore, is coordinating to help people who need to be placed.
It’s too soon to tell if the initiative will be able to assist all victims of the 26/11 attacks. But for some, help is on its way.