Rupnagar Slum Cylinder Blast: Bleak days ahead for victim families | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 10, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:58 AM, November 10, 2019

Rupnagar Slum Cylinder Blast: Bleak days ahead for victim families

Ten days after the Rupnagar gas cylinder blast in Mirpur, 13-year old Bishwajit can barely see in his left eye. 

Before the incident, he was working in a t-shirt printing factory, to support his family -- single mother and garment worker Jhuma Rani Das, and two-year-old sister Rakhi Das.

A day after the tragic incident on October 30 that left seven children of Rupnagar Slum dead and at least 20 others -- mostly children -- seriously injured, Bishwajit was taken to National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital with splinters in his eyes.

“My salary is about Tk 9,000 and my son earned Tk 3,500,” said Jhuma, who has been raising her two children alone since she was abandoned by her husband a year ago.

“I took him to the hospital today,” Jhuma told this newspaper yesterday. “Doctors have just prescribed medicine and tell me to continue the dosages for a month. I don’t know how I will continue his treatment. I have missed work for so many days, I don’t even know if I still have my job,” said a hapless Jhuma, adding that she did not get any financial assistance. She loaned Tk 20,000 from lenders at a monthly interest of Tk 2,000. “I don’t know how I will return the money,” said Jhuma.

 Shahjahan, father of seven-year-old Mohammad Shaheen who got hit by splinters in his cheek, neck and right arm, has also spent around Tk 20,000 taking loan from lenders at high interest, but is still short of cash.

Shaheen was rushed to Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, and later referred to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). However, it became so difficult for his impoverished parents to afford the commute back and forth from Mirpur, as well as medicines, that they released their son from the hospital two days later, and brought him home.

“I have been living in the slum for the last 12 years, but never took loans. This time around, I had no alternative,” said Shahjahan.

He said he and his wife -- a domestic help -- earn around Tk 12,000 per month, and the additional expense is a huge burden for them.

“We don’t know what we will do now, as we have to pay Tk 3,000 monthly to the lenders alone, and have to continue Shaheen’s treatment as well,” said frustrated Shajahan.

Unlike Bishwajit and Shaheen, Jannat Begum is still admitted at the hospital – the burn unit of DMCH. However, her family seems to be in a deeper crisis.

She will need reconstructive surgery in her arm, said Resident Surgeon Partha Shankar Pal of DMCH burn unit on Friday.

Jannat’s husband -- a 25-year old rickshaw-puller -- has had to go to his village home in Bhola to get loans from a microcredit lender, as he failed to get loans from his slum since he is new to the city.

“Doctors advised me to be prepared for surgery… But I cannot see any way to gather funds,” said Nazrul, who got around Tk 15,000 as assistance from well-wishers and spent Tk 25,000 more in loans.

“I am thankful that my wife is still alive, though she has lost her right hand. But it is getting tougher by the day for me to continue her treatment,” said Nazrul.

He said he earns Tk 500 per day pulling rickshaw, and a large part of it goes in his day-to-day living cost.

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