Problems continue for 7/11 victims
Hundreds of people affected by the serial blasts that ripped through local trains in Mumbai on 7/11 are still grappling with the trauma and shock caused by one of the country's worst terror attacks.
Official statistics state 187 people were killed and over 800 injured in the blasts but reveal little of the problems that haunt many victims.
For some like Dinesh Singh, compensation and the offer of a job by the authorities matter little when he has to look at his 21-year-old son Amit, who is in coma in a hospital without any visible signs of improvement.
"Amit was among those injured in the blast between Mira Road and Bhayander and has been in coma since that day. The state has taken care of his medical treatment at Jaslok Hospital till date but I would like to see some result at the end of one year," Singh said.
Seven blasts occurred almost simultaneously during the evening peak hour on July 11, 2006 in first class coaches of trains near Matunga, Mahim, Bandra, Khar, Jogeshwari, Borivali and Mira Road stations.
"Amit can acknowledge what we say with his eyes but doctors say nothing more can be done for him beyond what is already being done," Singh said.
He is hopeful that specialists from abroad or the country can help Amit regain at least part of his body's faculties.
"We can't shift him out of the hospital since the state will stop funding his treatment. We continue to appeal for some foreign doctors to come and see if something can be done," Singh said.
Rajaram Chavan, who lost his leg in the blast at Borivali, somehow ekes out a living but wishes he had the benefit of a government job.
"I continue to work in the same private firm where I worked earlier but it is not as stable as a government job. I am always scared of providing for my wife and child if I lose the job," said Chavan, who was earlier employed as a watchman.
"I don't think I meet the government's criteria for disability, which is why I did not get the job. I am now awaiting the compensation from the railway claims tribunal," Chavan, who has been fitted with a prosthetic leg, said.
Suhas Choughule, another victim, said it was hard for him to arrange the surgery he needed to mend his ears as he could not afford it, being the only earning member of his family.
"I cannot work or sleep properly due to my ears, which hurt every night. I have been toldthe surgery to mend them will cost about Rs 50,000, but how am I to manage that much money when the state has given me insufficient compensation?" he asked.
Railway authorities said a total of over Rs 12 crore has been distributed as compensation for the kin of the 187 people who died in the blasts and that almost all those who were injured have been given relief.
"We also suffered huge damage due to the blasts. Despite that, we aided those affected by the blasts by giving jobs to the next of kin of the dead and those who were badly injured," a spokesperson for Western Railways said.
However, former MP Kirit Somaiya, who has taken up the issue of compensation, claimed that the help given by the railways is insufficient. He also accused the state government of not keeping promises it made to the victims of the blasts.
"The state government has not kept its promise of paying relief to all the victims of the blasts. In many cases, it has tried to save money by classifying those with major injuries as persons with minor injuries," Somaiya alleged.
According to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the state government has provided compensation to all the victims of the 7/11 blasts.
If any instance comes to light of someone not having been paid as yet, this would be taken care of, Deshmukh said.
However, he acknowledged that there were cases in which the railways have so far not given jobs to the relatives of victims.
Somaiya also claimed the compensation was insufficient for many people who suffered relatively minor injuries but lost their sources of livelihood.
According to him, the state paid only about 880 of the victims and promises of giving jobs to the next of kin have not been properly implemented by the railways.
"This is a cruel joke on the victims who have suffered enough already," said Somaiya, who has approached the state Human Rights Commission to seek action against the state government.
The railways pointed out that it had encouraged people to bring their grievances to the notice of the Railway Claims Tribunal, which has received 513 applications and settled 211.
However, Somaiya claimed the tribunal has not been meeting often enough and has not settled the claims of the injured.