Sivakasi cracker mishap: Compensation yet to be paid to victims’ kin 2 weeks on

VIRUDHUNAGAR: M Mahalakshmi (18) was devastated when she heard that her mother was injured after an explosion at a firecracker unit in Sengamalapatti on May 9. Mahalakshmi’s mother, M Malliga (34) suffered 45% burns in the accident, which claimed 10 lives and injured 14 workers.

Even though it has been more than two weeks since the fateful day, troubles are far from over for the victims and their families, as the government is yet to pay them the compensation.

“My grandmother and I have been staying here, at the Government Medical College Hospital in Virudhunagar, taking care of my mother. Every day, I watch helplessly as my mother suffers and cries in pain, and attempts to narrate the events that unfolded on the day of the accident,” said an inconsolable Mahalakshmi.

With the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) affecting the disbursal of compensation to the victims, their families are suffering mentally and financially. Like Mahalakshmi’s grandmother, the kin of two other victims — S Indira (48) and R Nagajothi (35) — who sustained 35% and 45% burns respectively are daily wage labourers, who have temporarily stopped working to care for their loved ones.

A surgeon at the hospital, who is treating the trio, said that the victims need treatment for at least two weeks. “It would take at least four months for them to return to normalcy,” the surgeon added.

“While the treatment cost is covered and basic meals are provided for free at the hospital, we are spending Rs 800-1000 per day to meet other expenses such as buying juice, milk, and fruits, and for our food expenses,” the family members said.

With their savings drained out, the families are being pushed into a debt cycle. “We are disappointed with the officials, who have failed to understand our situation,” the family members said.

When contacted, an official from the district administration said that the compensation will be disbursed after the state government gets a clearance from the Election Commission of India.

M Selvam (48), husband of Indira said, “Had the government provided the compensation, we could have managed our expenses. My wife and I have supported the family. But since she is in the hospital, I had to stop working to care for her as my mother is old.”

For Mahalakshmi and her 14-year-old brother Mariselvam, Malliga was the sole breadwinner of the family. “As my father is an alcoholic, we have been facing severe financial constraints. My brother and I dropped out of school three years ago due to this. Our family was dependent on the `1,500 that my mother earned every week. After the accident, we are depending on our relatives for financial support,” she said.

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