It has been six months since Rimi Oberoi, a victim of Meerut's Brand India fire tragedy, stepped out in the sun. She would need dozens of surgeries to even faintly resemble her former self. After promising her free treatment, the government has refused to foot the bill for surgeries.
After the grafting of skin on her ears, back, both hands and legs, Rimi now needs multiple contractual surgeries to increase the elasticity of grafted skin. "She cannot stretch her hands or use her fingers as the grafted skin has shrunk in size. She needs more surgeries but the government has refused to pay for further treatment," said Rimi's mother Surjit Kaur.
Rimi was discharged on Thursday from Kailash Hospital in Noida, as the family could not afford further treatment. "We are from Chandigarh but have not gone home since April. She was treated at Safdarjang for two months but we had to move her from there because she was developing infections due to the poor condition of the burns ward. Even now, her wounds have to be dressed every three days. All this takes a lot of money," said Vickey, Rimi's brother.
Besides, Rimi requires a number of plastic surgeries, which the government termed a 'cosmetic procedure' and refused to reimburse the bills. "It is not like she is beautifying herself. She is 22 years old and it is not possible for her to lead a normal life without going in for plastic surgeries. She cannot work anywhere and we are worried about her marriage prospects. The government officials told us that their job is to ensure she survives. But what is her future without job and marriage?" asked Kaur.
In Meerut, District Magistrate Mukesh Kumar Meshram said, "our guidelines do not include paying for plastic surgeries. We will get it checked and pay for other procedures and her contractual surgeries."
Rimi is not the only victim being deprived of medical care due to lack of funds. Twenty-seven-year-old Gaurav Rastogi discontinued his treatment despite needing multiple contractual and plastic surgeries. "We have been doing rounds of the offices of the Sub Divisional Magistrate and the Chief Medical Officer (CMO). Only grafting has been done but that is not enough," said Gaurav's brother Vishal.
"A clerk at the CMO's office told us, 'Not a single penny will be given. The government ensured that your patient survived. We cannot adopt him and pay for him all his life'," added Vishal.
Eleven-year-old Monu's guardians have also not been reimbursed for the treatment. Monu is being brought up by his aunt and uncle in Varanasi after his mother perished in the Meerut fire in April this year. His father died of cardiac arrest six months before the Meerut tragedy.
"We spent Rs 60,000 for grafting and gave the bills to the district magistrate in May but that has not been reimbursed. Now they tell us that they do not have money to give us. He cannot stretch his arms and is due for more surgeries but we do not have the funds," said Monu's aunt Nazmeem Siddqui.