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Last Updated: May 17, 2007 - 8:46:52 AM
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Thousands mourn Meerut blaze victims a year on
Apr 10, 2007 - 5:37:54 PM
Puja received many trophies for her act of gallantry. 'But all these trophies were not enough to meet the cost of the major plastic surgery she requires,' rues her mother Madhuri Srivastava.

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[RxPG] Meerut -, April 10 - Thousands of people gathered at the Victoria Park in Meerut Tuesday to mourn the death of 64 people in a huge fire that broke out during a consumer fair here exactly a year ago.

Organised largely by victims' families, the commemoration function was preceded by a 'shanti havan' - in the park in Meerut, barely 100 km from New Delhi, which turned into a furnace for the hapless victims on April 10, 2006.

Sparked off by a short circuit, the fire engulfed the entire venue packed with at least 2,000 people. As the organisers had left only one opening for both entry and exit, the blaze trapped many inside the temporary structure draped in highly inflammable synthetic material.

Many of the victims' kin were sore with the government for delaying the disbursement of compensation promised to them. While some complained that the amount received by them was 'grossly inadequate', there were a few who were still waiting for the realisation of promises made by authorities.

'Such cases have just been brought to my knowledge. I will do my best to ensure that there is no further delay in payment of compensation or any other relief to every single victim's family,' new Meerut Commissioner J.S. Deepak told IANS.

'Since the state assembly polls are underway and the election code of conduct is in force, we can't do anything substantial for the victims right away but as soon as the elections end on May 8, we should be in a position to sort out all their woes,' Deepak said.

Relatives of those who risked their own lives to save others during the fire also have grouses against the administration.

Javed, 23, was hailed as a hero for laying down his own life while saving 19 people from the blaze.

'Javed was on a visit to Meerut and happened to be at the fair when the fire broke out. Unmindful of the risk, he plunged into the blaze and managed to save as many as 19 people but he ended up with major burns which eventually took his life two days later,' Javed's mother Anisa Begum told reporters in Barielly.

Though proud of her son who was hailed as a 'martyr', Anisa and other family members feel the pinch of her son's untimely death.

'Javed was the only bread-winner in the family as my husband does not have a regular job. We used to depend heavily on him,' she lamented.

'A number of prominent people from this town visited us and promised us the moon. They were seen once again when the elections were round the corner. But their promises remain unfulfilled. Even the official declaration to name a road after Javed was conveniently forgotten by the municipal authorities,' she said.

Puja, another young Good Samaritan from Barielly, suffered severe burns while saving nine children trapped in the fire.

'I had dreams of becoming an air-hostess, but having suffered major burns, now I have to think about some other career,' a dejected Puja told a TV channel.

Puja received many trophies for her act of gallantry. 'But all these trophies were not enough to meet the cost of the major plastic surgery she requires,' rues her mother Madhuri Srivastava.

'All that the government gave her was Rs.50,000 which proved grossly insufficient for her treatment,' she added.

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