Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Echoes From Delhi Terror Bombings

Aftershocks continue to last week's terror bombings in India's capital city Delhi. The five bombs took the lives of almost 30 individuals, some of whose stories we blogged about here. The grisly handiwork of the savages belonging to the Indian Mujahedeen have left almost a hundred others injured, as the islamists' devil's brew of ammonium nitrate, gun powder, ball bearings and nails has shattered lives irrespective of economic, religious or ethnic backgrounds.

This week the Indian press has been introducing its readers to some of the tragic stories of the targeted citizens of Delhi. "For some survivors of Saturday's blasts, perhaps the last sound they clearly heard was that of the bomb going off":

Take 27-year-old Avdesh Sahaney, a parking attendant on Barakhamba Road, who has lost most of the hearing in his left ear. Sahaney's eardrum was perforated as a result of the blasts.

"I had gone to drink water at one of the pavement stalls when the blast occurred. I remember a loud sound, after which I lost consciousness. I came back to my senses in the hospital," he says.

Doctors treating Sahaney are keeping him under observation, hoping his ear heals on its own. "If not, we will have to operate," said Dr Sidhu, head of ENT and additional MS at RML hospital. "This is a common condition in most blast cases. The velocity with which the air hits the eardrum can cause serious - sometimes irreversible - damage," he adds.

Another victim, 26-year-old Renu also suffered blast-induced hearing loss but the doctors are optimistic about her recovery. Hearing loss is one of the most common ailments to afflict blast victims. As the condition of patients at RML stabilizes, the ENT department screens them in the audio room for possible hearing disorders, informs Dr Sidhu.

The Indian government has pledged compensation up to 500,000 rupees [$21,000 Cdn dollars..?] for the terror attack's many victims, but the likelyhood of people actually getting the money is another story:

Most people would treat it as another mundane affair. Yet, it's a simple bank account which has emerged as a major stumbling block for the hapless residents of Gali number 42 in Beadonpura.

They have already lost 11 people in Saturday's bomb blasts and as the realisation seeps in that life must go on, their efforts to get the Rs 5 lakh compensation money, which was announced within hours of the blasts, are hit by the lack of a bank account. ...
There is more to the problem. Even to open a new bank account these people — most of them daily wage earners — would need to furnish a number of documents like residence proof etc, which again nearly all of them do not possess.
The handful of families who have some valid documents have been handed account payee checks. Says Ram Singh, a relative of Ganga Prasad who died, "I have no clue what to do with this piece of paper now. We do not have a bank account. Can you help us encash this?"

Unfortunately, Delhi residents are still waiting for the compensation they were promised by Indian politicians from the last terror bombing that struck Delhi back on August 29, 2005; the two explosions that day murdered 62 people and injured a further 210 others. Some of the victims of the 2005 islamist bombs were witnesses to the second attack last weekend:

Reliving the horror of 2005 Diwali blasts and the subsequent tale of government insensitivity to his pains, Vinod Poddar, who lost his right leg, said: "A compensation of Rs 1 lakh doesn't come anywhere near what I need. Those who survive need more assistance as we have to live with the disability forever." He had tears in his eyes when he saw pictures of victims being taken to hospitals on Saturday. Poddar's daughter Diksha, who is in Class IX, was also seriously injured and has to undergo more surgery. ...

Many 29/10 victims say they are yet to fully come to terms with the tragedy. "I still feel scared even sitting at home. I couldn't sleep for days after returning from Safdarjung hospital. Blast victims need counselling," says George Mathew, a businessman.

The preening politicians are being criticized for using the slaughter as a backdrop for photo ops:

...[A]ngry residents blocked traffic on the road. Said an angry Banwari Devi: "It's been for three days that we have been waiting for some relief from the government. Yet, the administration has no qualms to make profits from the same parking lot that on Saturday altered our lives."

Added Kanhaiya, another protester: "We have complained innumerable times about the lack of security in the market and unaccounted vehicles being parked here. Yet, even today, no extra security has been put in place."

Meanwhile, the victims refused to entertain the stream of political leaders who visited the street. "They are here only to play divisive politics. They are not really concerned about our well-being. If they really cared, they would have brought food and other relief," said Prakash, Simran's maternal uncle.

At the local level, Delhi law enforcement has had to wrestle with deciding on the lesser of evils in a city that produces over 5,000 tons of garbage a day:

Delhi police have solved the problem of how to prevent terror attacks. They have turned all the public garbage bins upside down and tied them together in pairs so that they are completely unusable, even by terrorists.

Which means Delhi’s streets are now a stinking mess, with polythene bags, stale food, wrappers and plastic bottles scattered all across them.

... All the bins had been overturned today at Central Park in Connaught Place and Barakhamba Road, their rotting contents emptied just under them. Fresh waste lay strewn all around, with tourists busy clicking the bins and garbage on their cellphone cameras.

“I went to the Janpath market yesterday. The twin garbage bins in the middle of the market have been turned upside down and the litter is scattered everywhere. The stench is terrible,” student Sanjay Singh said. ...

Frustration with governmental inefficiency in combating the islamist terror threat is mounting. The state of affairs is positively scandalous:

Security measures have failed to deliver. It’s shocking that most closed-circuit cameras installed in sensitive areas do not work. Intelligence gathering is in a mess. Clearly, a focused and coordinated approach to matters of security is missing.

And it sounds like things will have to get much worse before they begin to get better..:

Political scientist Imtiaz Ahmed also feels that while the Indian state is pretty strong, its willingness to take effective measures against terrorism has been weak. "The state's overall attitude towards incidents such as the Saturday Delhi bomb blasts is that it does not seriously affect the country's integrity or security. True, it jeopardizes public security. But then the outlook is: we can live with it. In fact, rather than act against it, the state is simply hoping that terrorism will subside. Management of terrorism is not a very high priority in the state's scheme of things."

Meanwhile life goes on, and from the echoes of suffering an occasional cry of joy rings out with rare good news:

On Friday, she knew her husband had work in Karol Bagh and would not be back till Saturday evening. The blasts followed, and then no word from Mukesh Kumar.

A frantic Rani went from hospital to hospital, searching for her husband and fearing the worst.

What she did not know was that 36-year-old Mukesh, after completing his work, decided to stay back at a friend's place so that he could shop for his daughter's birthday. But then changed plans and went to a relative's house in Nangloi.

Rani's misery ended on Monday night, when Mukesh called to say he was alive and well.

"I had gone to Karol Bagh and from there I left for Nangloi on Saturday morning and stayed over at a relative's house as I wasn't well. My phone fell on the road and stopped working..."

Rani, however, was unapologetic. "He saw his picture in the news channels and papers and got angry with me. But I am just happy that he came back," she said.

No comments: