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Home / Politics / Policy /  26/11: For families of those who died, reasons to hope, and to despair

Mumbai: In the narrow lanes of Pratikshanagar, a Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority settlement in the Sion-Koliwada area of central Mumbai, there is a building called H-12. It is known as the 26/11 building; 19 families that lost their kin in the line of duty on 26/11 were allotted flats in it.

Only five of the families are actually living in the building; the others have rented out their flats because they can’t afford the monthly maintenance charge of 4,500. And most of those living in it say they can’t afford it, too, but have no choice because they have no other place to go to.

The families include the survivors of staff from Cama and Albless Hospital, a government-run facility for women and children located near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), one of the main targets of the terrorist attack.

The hospital lost seven of its staff that night to terrorist bullets. But not a single patient lost his or her life, thanks to the alacrity and presence of mind shown by the security guards and other staff at the hospital.

Immediately after coming to know of the terror attack on CST, two security guards at the hospital, Baban Ughade and Bhanu Narkar, went from ward to ward asking nurses and other staff to close the doors from inside and instructing them not to open them under any circumstances.

They switched off the lights in the passage on the way. Afterwards, both rushed to the main gate of the hospital to close it. That was when they fell to the bullets of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and Abu Ismail.

Their widows, Sushila Ughade and Sunanda Narkar, said they had received help from the government in the form of a 700 sq. ft flat each and a 25 lakh fixed deposit. But they are still waiting for a promised petrol pump and salaries of their spouses; the government had promised to pay the salaries until such time as Ughade and Narkar would have retired had they been alive.

“We feel the government is discriminating against us; survivors of policemen got petrol pumps but we are just running from pillar to post to get the petrol pump for us. I have nothing against the relatives of policemen, I am happy that the government has kept their promise in their case. But I have a question: is the sacrifice of my husband a lesser one than that of the policemen?"

Ughade, who has a family of eight to take care of, said: “The interest on the fixed deposit and family pension is helping us to survive but I am worried whether my younger son and grandchildren will able to complete their education and make it big in life."

Ughade said her son Vilas was given a job at Cama Hospital in place of her husband on compassionate grounds but he died in January this year.

“Since then we are meeting anybody and everybody in Mantralaya (Maharashtra government secretariat) and pleading with them to appoint my other son, Vitthal, in place of Vilas but I am getting nothing but assurances," Ughade said.

Perhaps what made Kasab and Ismail run towards Cama Hospital was the fight put up by men from government railway police (GRP) and railway protection force (RPF) at CST with their antique 303 rifles and pistols. Constable Ambadas Pawar fell to the terrorists’ bullets.

His widow Kalpana Pawar came to Mumbai for the first time after her husband’s death and lives in the city alone with her six-year-old son Vivek. She used to live with her in-laws and son, then one year old, at the time Ambadas was slain.

“Whenever he used to come to the village on vacation, he used to promise me that he would take me and Vivek to Mumbai as soon as he got a quarters or a suitable accommodation which we could afford but I never imagined I would have to come to Mumbai in such tragic circumstances," Kalpana Pawar said.

She recalls the night of 26/11 when Pawar called her on the phone to talk.

“We were chatting while his train entered CST station and he told me he is hearing some gunshots but not to worry, he will give me a call immediately after everything was over but his call never came, only news of his death came," she says.

Pawar was offered a job by Saraswat Co-operative Bank Ltd and Vivek is studying in the first standard at Don Bosco School.

“My family supported me to overcome my grief and helped me to realize that now my son is my sole responsibility and I should not let him down by indulging in self-pity all the time," Pawar says.

A friend lives with the mother and son in her Mumbai flat, but will leave when she gets married next month.

Pawar wonders how she can cope alone with her son in Mumbai. “But I am determined to live in Mumbai for the future of my son," she said. “One just can’t compare the quality of education in Mumbai and back in our village."

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