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A day that rocked the exchange

Last updated on: March 13, 2013 08:54 IST

A day that rocked the exchange

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Sachin P Mampatta in Mumbai


K R Choksey's driver was lucky his employer had a doctor's appointment that Friday afternoon in 1993.

If it had been a day like any other, he would have driven the chairman of Kisan Ratilal Choksey Shares & Securities to the office and waited in the parking lot.

By the afternoon, many of his fellow drivers were crushed, as the basement fell after a massive explosion at the stock exchange.

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Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

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A day that rocked the exchange

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M R Mayya, then CEO of BSE, was just making his way to the parking lot. He had an appointment with the newly appointed chief minister, Sharad Pawar, and had been told to be at his office 15 minutes early.

By the time he got downstairs, there was chaos. Vehicles were having trouble moving out of the area and telephone lines were down. "I escaped death by a hair's breadth...I then went to the police commissioner's office, virtually on foot," he said. The commissioner assured him the police had already been deployed, as had the fire brigade been.

"There were thousands of people from outside who came in to help, taking large numbers of people to hospitals," he recalls of the rescue efforts. There was plenty of damage to clean up.

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Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters. Inset: M R Mayya
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A day that rocked the exchange

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Before today's security net came into being, brokers recall the roads around the BSE building as 'khau gullys'. Bhel wallas and other sellers of savoury snacks plied their trade to the teeming masses who worked at the exchange.

There were injuries galore among them as glass rained from the high rise on people below.

The injuries were not restricted to the stock exchange.

The blast at the exchange and other key Mumbai locations like the Air India building and Plaza Cinema caused 257 deaths, and gave injuries of various types to 713 people, according to Central Bureau of Investigation archives.

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Photographs: Reuters
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A day that rocked the exchange

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The blasts were so powerful their impact could be felt some distance away. Asit C Mehta Investment CEO Deena Mehta was seven months pregnant and working at a place near the building.

The sudden blast shattered the windows of her office, located a good 200 metres away.

She rushed to the exchange building with a staffer to locate members of her own firm who worked there. She recalls a scene with dead bodies, hands and legs strewn all over the place, and blood everywhere. "I still tremble when I think of it," she says.

One of her staff members was missing. They began to call the hospitals, but he was finally found, traumatised, under a staircase.

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Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters
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Also at the exchange was Vijay Gurav, currently an entrepreneur, then journalist with a leading financial daily. He says: "'The transformer must have exploded,' someone close to me said... I found myself pushed down the stairs.

Before I could realise what went wrong, I was on the ground floor, where I saw pieces of broken glass scattered all over, and panicked people rushing for their lives." He rushed through Dalal Street to inform his office about the incident.

He wasn't the only one getting to work. Brokers and officials were busy getting the bourse back at its feet.



Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
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