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Bomb blast or not, the old customs of government never change
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai | September 09, 2003 03:48 IST
Leelabai Pawar and her daughter Rekha Sanjeev Kumar have been sitting outside the collector's office at the Old Customs House in south Mumbai for the past one week.
This is not what they do on a normal day. Before August 25, you would have found them selling flowers near the Gateway of India to make anywhere between Rs 50 [approximately US $1.1] and Rs 100 a day.
The mother and daughter were both injured in the blast and admitted to St George Hospital, where they had to stay for a week. After they were discharged, they have been waiting at the collector's office to get the promised compensation of Rs 50,000 from the Government of Maharashtra.
"For the past week we have been waiting here more than six hours a day, but nobody tells us when we will get the money," says Leelabai. "Everyday they tell me to bring this paper or that. We are illiterate. We just have these newspapers carrying our photographs." So saying she takes out a sheaf of local newspapers to prove her claim. One picture shows Leelabai soaked in blood, weeping.
"Look at this picture," she says. "I am bleeding in this. What more proof do you want? I was injured and that's it. I just don't know what they want to give me the money."
Her daughter Rekha's picture was clicked with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, but no one in the collector's office is willing to believe her. "I have been coming with my six-month-old child everyday. There is no place to feed him. I only hope they believe us and give the money," she says.
A little later a peon emerges from the collector's office and tells the women not to sit outside the office and weep. "Aap log neeche jaakar baitho, aapka paisa mil jayega aaj [Go downstairs and wait there, you will get your money today]," he says.
"We have been hearing this for the past one week," retorts Rekha. "But at the end of every day you tell us to come tomorrow. We will not move until we get our money today."
The two women are still too scared to go back to the Gateway of India and resume selling flowers. "Life has not been the same for us for the past two weeks," says Leelabai. "We are still in a state of shock."
Though the government has promised to give them their compensation cheques, the mother and daughter are not too thrilled because they have never opened a bank account. "We only hope some good people help us to open a bank account," says Leelabai. "We only have ration cards to prove that we are citizens of this country. People were eager to help us after the blast, but today no one bothers to find out how we are doing."
A little later, the peon again emerges from the collector's cabin and tells the duo: "Tumhare cheque ban gaye hain [your cheques are ready]. Come back at 5.30pm and take them."
"At last!" exults Leelabai. "Our perseverance has paid off. We only want to lead a new life and forget about the past."
More reports from Maharashtra
Read about: Telgi case | Mumbai blasts