While yesterday marked the 19th anniversary of the gruesome 1993 serial blasts, which claimed over 200 lives and left over 700 injured, even today some of the survivors are battling its aftermath - life-altering physical injuries. Apart from crippling them for life, the blasts have forced several of them to lead a life of penury.Recalling horror
Santlal Maurya (48), who owned a bhelpuri stall on Dalal Street back in 1993, was busy attending to his customers, when a powerful explosion took place in Bombay Stock Exchange's (BSE) basement.
Narrating his harrowing experience, Maurya said, "The sound of the explosion was deafening. Such was the impact that I was thrown off my feet. And all that I could see around me was smoke, blood and my body pierced with hundreds of glass pieces. Within seconds I feel unconscious."
Maurya was rushed to St George Hospital and was later transferred to JJ Hospital where he underwent a major surgery. He regained consciousness two days after the blast.
"When I regained consciousness I was in terrible pain. Glass pieces had pierced the back of my head, back, hands and feet," said Maurya, claiming that till date, he is yet to receive compensation promised by the authorities for the survivors.
Lack of monetary help and the burden of being the only earning member for a family of six forced Maurya to reopen his stall within six months of sustaining life-altering injuries in the blast. Even today, he has several glass pieces lodged in his body.
"In these 19 years, almost every year, I have undergone surgeries to remove them. Since the pain is unbearable, I consume a lot of pain-killers to ease it," said Maurya.
"I had applied to the BMC for a hawker's licence, requesting them to consider my case as a special one. However, I'm yet to receive their response, which has disappointed me.
Since the area around Dalal Street has been cordoned off citing security reasons, I had to shift my stall from the busy street to the relatively quieter British Hotel Lane. This has affected my business severely and today I'm struggling to make enough money to meet my basic needs."
Maurya is not the only one forced to undergo this ordeal. Jilajit Singh, a 40-year-old sandwich stall owner at Dalal Street, has suffered a similar fate. Singh lay unconscious in the hospital 10 days after the blast.
"After I regained consciousness, I experienced excruciating pain throughout my body, as hundreds of glass pieces had pierced it. Doctors say that even today about 100 gm of glass pieces are there inside my body," said Singh, recollecting his ordeal.
Like Maurya, even Singh has to undergo surgeries, when the numerous glass pieces inside his body get infected. On his left foot alone, Singh has around 126 stitches. Slamming the compensation of Rs 5,000, which he received from the authorities, Singh stated that he was entitled for Rs 50,000.
"Doctors asked me to rest for eight months. Also at that time the reach of the mass media wasn't much, nor was I aware of the amount of compensation I was entitled for," said Singh.
A native of Jaunpur, UP, Singh added, "I am under severe financial strain because of my medical condition. Also my stall was shifted from Dalal Street for security reasons, which adversely affected the business.
I had requested the authorities to build me a proper stall, considering that I was handicapped by the blast. But all my requests fell on deaf ears."
"However, life still goes on and I have come to terms with the tragedy. Moreover, I've learnt to be optimistic," said Singh, who stands at his stall for nearly 10 hours every day on his weak legs.Fortunate ones
Unlike Maurya and Singh, there were a few lucky ones who escaped the blasts with minor injuries, but are struggling to make a decent living even today.
Shankar Shetty (65), who ran a pan-bedi shop between Maurya and Singh's stalls, said, "I was thrown off my feet the moment the bomb exploded. However, I am lucky that glass pieces did not pierce my body deep and I recovered soon.
However, post-blasts, licences of hawkers operating at Dalal Street were revoked and new ones are yet to be issued. As a result, even at this age, I have to run for cover when a BMC van comes to pick up illegal stalls. I cannot sustain my family without my stall and at this age can't manage to run fast enough to take cover."
Recalling his lucky escape, Sachendra Shetty said, "The entire area was covered in destruction that day. I asked the waiters what had happened and they said the sound of the explosion was so deafening that they were in a daze for at least two minutes."
Shetty (50), who runs a lunch home next to the BSE building, had left the premises just 10 minutes before the blast.Eyewitness recalls
Harishankar Ingle (43), who owns a shoe shop adjacent to the Air India building, which was one of the targets during the blasts, said, "The sound of the blast was deafening and its impact was such that the window of the cars parked next to the building shattered completely. Soon after the entire area was engulfed in smoke, I ran for my life."