Most of the 25 patients Shankar Maity dragged out of the giant, smoke-filled chimney that the AMRI hospital turned into on Friday have survived. But the 23-year-old — a resident of the Panchanantala slum bordering the hospital boundary — wasn’t so lucky and is battling for life in the intensive coronary care unit of the Ramkrishna Mission Seva Pratisthan, a hospital in south Kolkata.
No compensation has been announced for him. The newspaper vendor has only his family and friends to bank on. The locals put together the money for his hospital bills, which might grow if — as doctors indicated — he needs ventilator support.
Shankar isn’t the only hero from the Panchanantala slum.
Debasis Chatterjee, 37, who walks with the aid of a prosthetic limb since childhood, was one of the main organisers of the rescue mission. “I cannot strain my leg, so I concentrated on coordinating,” he said.
It was not just raw courage that brought the slum dwellers into the limelight. Showing immense presence of mind, they twisted the streetlamps to throw light on the hospital compound, where the lights had gone out immediately after the fire began.
After being denied entry into the compound by the guards, they broke the boundary wall and cut the barbed wires. Over 100 of them entered through the holes to start the rescue work.
“It was not a show by a few individuals but a combined effort,” said Khagen Das, 70, whose asthma has deteriorated after inhaling the toxic fumes.