The 1993 bomb blasts ripped this man’s life apart, leaving him with a near-useless arm and a body riddled with innumerable glass shards debilitating injuries which over 40 surgeries costing more than Rs 20 lakh have failed to fix. Twenty years on, 55-year-old Kirti Ajmera is yet to receive even a single penny of the Rs 25,000 that he is entitled to as compensation.
Fourteen years ago, MiD DAY has reported on Ajmera’s physical struggles after the blast (‘Glass horror for blast victim, April 13, 1999). Yesterday, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the blast, Ajmera recounted the mammoth struggles he has encountered with red-tapism in the two decades that have passed since the day when his life and body fell apart.
“I have to admit that the government has failed miserably to provide me with the compensation that I deserve. On March 12, 1993, I was working at the Bombay Stock Exchange where I narrowly escaped death, thanks to the fact that the bomb exploded just before I had entered the premises. I was unconscious for a while.
When I came to, I saw a pool of blood, and different body parts lying on the road,” he recalled. “I was rushed to GT Hospital in a taxi, but they couldn’t admit me, as no beds were available. The hospital was inundated with victims from two other blast sites. Thankfully, a bed was vacated when another blast victim died. I was very lucky to be promptly rushed to hospital and get a vacant bed.”
Ajmera has experienced indescribable physical turmoil since he was caught in the blast. “The right side of my body still gives me pain. I have been operated upon more than 40 times and there are still pieces of glass coming out of my body every other month. Till date, my body has been rejecting the pieces of glass that entered through my right hand and ribs.
After the blast, my arm was hanging on by a strip of tissue. If I hadn’t held my arm in place, it would have fallen off. A large shard of glass broke my ribs and punctured my lungs. The right side of my face was also smashed by a large piece of glass. Another shard that had burst my inner ear drum had to be removed from my right ear,” he recalled.
Till date, the shards keep showing up. “Earlier, I would be hospitalised every time a shard had to be removed from my body, but this was extremely expensive. Now I go to my family doctor to get them removed. If I sometimes spot a small piece, I just ask my wife to remove it with a pair of forceps.”
The physical agony that Ajmera still endures is compounded by the angst he feels about government apathy. “I think I have probably knocked on each and every door I could for the Rs 25,000 that was announced by the government after the serial bomb blasts. Every night when I fall asleep, I hope that someone from the government will knock on my door some day to speak to me about the compensation that I was supposed to receive years ago. Many MLA and MPs have visited my house, but no one spoke to me about what I rightfully deserve.”
Wait ’n watch
He added, “I am in no need of the money. But I want to see how long the government takes to give me what I am rightfully owed. It’s not a question of whether I am rich or poor. It is shameful that the government, on which so many depend, still can’t give me Rs 25,000. There might be many more victims in this country suffering like me. Unlike me, they may not even have money to pay for the expenses. I am lucky that with the help of my family and friends I have managed to cover the expenses incurred during my treatment.” He added, “Over the years, I have spent more than Rs 20 lakh for treatment. But back in 1993, I was quite poor, as I worked as a clerk for a bank. I was in hospitals for over seven years, but no one from the authorities ever visited me. For 10 years I was bed-ridden, and consequently my wife Raksha couldn’t give much attention to our young children in their formative years.”
Four months after the blasts, my brother Vijay Ajmera visited Indira Dock to speak to officials of the special department set up by the government to offer compensation to victims. He was turned away by an official, who told him, “Jab tumhara aadmi maar jaye tab aake 2 lakh rupaye lekar jana (When your kin dies, come and take away Rs 2 lakh). They were actually waiting for the death toll to rise.” He added, “During a TV interview in 2006, after a heated argument with MLA Kripashankar Singh, he had promised he would arrange for my compensation in 15 days. It has now been six years and I am yet to receive anything. Eight months ago, Sanjay Nirupam, the local MP had visited my house and made the same promises to me.” Sanjay Nirupam and Kripashankar Singh could not be contacted for comment.
1993 (four months after the blast): Ajmera’s brother visited Indira Dock for compensation, but was sent away by officials who asked him to return when the victim died
2005: Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury was involved in an argument with Ajmera in a TV show, and contacted him on the phone later
2006: Ajmera confronted Kripashankar Singh on a TV show. The leader later visited Ajmera’s house
2006: Singh accompanied Ajmera to a meeting with Congress MP Murli Deora
2008: Ajmera visited the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who promised to get back to him
2012: Sanjay Nirupam visited Ajmera’s house