Uphaar Fire Tragedy: Twenty four years of grieving
Twenty-four years ago, on the 13th of June 1997, our world came crashing down forever when we (Shekhar and I) lost both our beloved children, Unnati ( then 17 years old) and Ujjwal (13 years), in the manmade Uphaar fire tragedy which claimed the lives of 59 innocent people including our children. The most difficult loss to deal with is that of children. As parents we should never outlive our children. So the anniversary of our children’s death is the most painful and difficult time for us as parents.
Despite our long drawn legal battle of over two decades to seek justice for our children and other victims of the fire, the criminal justice system has failed to deliver justice. The judicial system thought it appropriate to impose a fine of Rs 60 crores to the convicted Ansal brothers in lieu of the sentence awarded to them for the death of 59 people. What pains us doubly is the fact that the Trauma Centre to be set up with this blood money i.e Rs 60 Crores provided to Delhi Government in the year 2015 has still not seen the light of day. Had the Government built this Trauma Centre it could currently have been converted into a Covid Centre for the public and many lives could have been saved.
There was a glimmer of hope that Delhi would get another Trauma Centre in Dwarka when the Supreme Court on June 19th, 2020 in a Suo Moto Writ Petition (Civil) No.7/2020, while dealing with the care and treatment being provided to Covid-19 patients, had specifically queried the Ld. Addl. Solicitor General (ASG) appearing for the Govt. of NCT, as to the status of the proposed Trauma Centre in terms of the judgment(s) rendered in the Uphaar Tragedy Case. However, despite an assurance given by the Ld. ASG to revert on the matter, no information was thereupon provided. Surprisingly there are no further directions in this regard by the Supreme Court.
Every year since 1997, on the 13th of June, the families of the 59 victims of the Uphaar tragedy have congregated at a spot close to the infamous Uphaar cinema to remember their loved ones and pray. Later a memorial was also built at the same spot and became the location for a prayer meeting organized by AVUT. For the second year running we will not be able to congregate even to pray for our loved ones. The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed us of even this annual opportunity to formally remember those whom we loved and lost.
We are anguished to witness the abysmal health care crisis Delhi has gone through. It is a repeat of 1997 (the year of the Uphaar fire) , when there were no ambulances and no oxygen to ferry the injured to the hospitals . The injured were carried in PCR vans and tempos . Will anyone be held accountable for the state of the country in the face of this health emergency?
We fought tirelessly for accountability and safety in public spaces. But, are public spaces safe today?