As the news of a fire at a private hospital in Bhubaneswar claiming 22 lives broke out, the AMRI fire victims’ families in Kolkata relived the horror of the blaze in Dhakuria.
The AMRI fire on December 9, 2011, claimed 93 lives.
Dhanonjoy Pal, a government employee from Bankura, had admitted his 15-year-old daughter Prakrita, who had a small head injury.
She was to be released on December 9 but the AMRI fire killed her.
“I was at the dormitory meant for patient families downstairs. As smoke started coming out, I ran and tried to go upstarts but the guards did not allow me. They said that I need to clear my dues first and only then can I take her away. And finally, when I managed to reach her, she was dead,” Pal said.
If the inhuman behavior of the hospital staff was not enough, the long legal fight has broken his moral.
“By seeing the Bhubaneswar hospital fire, I remember what happened on that December night. It will be five years this December. So many patients, including my daughter died. But the case is going on at a very slow pace. We are still fighting for a dedicated bench hearing the case so that the trial could be done on day-to-day basis. The grief and the delayed justice have demoralised me. I am still hopeful and attending almost every hearing in every court by travelling 120 km to Kolkata,” said Pal, who is also a member of the AMRI Fire Victims’ Association.
In fact, these days not more than 10 families take active interested in the legal tussle.
“It took over four years for the trial to start. Everyone is out on bail and is pushing the dates further. Though the case had been filed by the state government against AMRI, we on behalf of the victims’ families are fighting with state government as well as the accused in the court.
This is because the state government is not giving us any support and is doing whatever it has to only under pressure,” said SN Pandey, who is fighting the case on behalf of the victims’ families.
The hospital, on the other hand, has reopened and is functioning from its parent building and an annex building that was not affected by the fire. Only the building engulfed by the fire remains inoperative. Those who were arrested are now out on bail.
On March 19, a local city court ruled that 16 officials of the hospital will be charged under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) for the fire. Police had submitted the charge sheet in March 2012. If found guilty, those guilty could be jailed for up to 10 years and also fined. The next hearing is scheduled in the first week of November. There are 432 witnesses in the case, all of whom will have to depose in the court before charges are framed.
“For the families of the Bhubaneswar victims, the ordeal has just started. They have a long battle ahead. I wish they have the courage to go on with the trial,” said Pal.