Whenever four-year-old Anshika Gautam sees a bulldozer, she runs towards it and asks where her elder sister Aarti is. It’s been year since Aarti died in the Lucky Compound building collapse at Mumbra’s Shilphata area, but Anshika still searches for her. Aarti was just six years old at that time.
For Anshika, Aarti was her constant companion, like a mother. Aarti looked after the chores of the house as their mother Neelam had been unwell for the past few years. “I saw so many bulldozers when the collapse happened. They were picking things up from the ground. My sister is surely with them,” says Anshika.
Anshika has a sharp memory and remembers everything, Neelam says. “The next few days after the collapse, there were many trucks and bulldozers removing debris from the ground. We would rush and keep checking for Aarti,” she says.
The family of five, who live in a 300-sq ft room at Khardigaon outside Mumbra, were residing at Vatash Nagar near Lucky Compound when the building collapsed. Neelam says Anshika refuses to believe her sister died in the collapse.
On April 4, 2013, Anshika’s older siblings, Aarti and Abhinandan (7), were attending tuition in the building when it collapsed. Abhinandan was rescued after a few hours. He had suffered severe injuries. Their father Chandrapat Gautam (33) regrets sending the children for tuition to the Lucky Compound building. “The children had final exams. While others left the class early, these children stayed back to study as they had tests the next day,” he recalls.
Abhinandan has changed a lot after the incident. “Earlier, he would behave like a typical naughty seven-year-old. Now, he cannot sit in a room if someone is quarrelling. He is stressed by noise and crowds,” says Neelam.
“I could not save my sister,” says Abhinandan, who now walks with a limp.
The family, which is yet to receive the compensation meant for the victims, has spent a huge sum on Abhinandan’s medical expenses. They have, however, refused to run from pillar to post to claim the compensation.
“We have approached the collector’s office, local police stations and the civic body, but all of them avoid us. Now, we have been told to submit some residence proof from our native place in Uttar Pradesh. These are excuses to avoid giving compensation as we have been residing in Shilphata for the past 20 years and have all proof,” says Chandrapat, who runs an auto garage near Mumbra.