Eight years after the Meerut fire that killed 64 people, Sanjay Gupta, who lost 5 people to the tragedy, hopes to make at least one change. He has put together two deep-freezers to donate to a government hospital morgue, so that unclaimed bodies can be kept for longer.
In a sprawling factory where treadmills, cross-trainers, cycles and weight-lifting machines are being fashioned out of motors and belts, two deep-freezers meant to store corpses stand out. At Sanjay Gupta’s London Sports and Fitness House factory in Saipuram Industrial Area, Meerut, the two deep-freezers are ready to be rolled out and sent to the government-run Lala Lajpat Rai Medical College (LLMR).
“No government hospital in Meerut has a deep-freezer for unclaimed bodies. Unidentified corpses rot in non-AC rooms in government hospitals for 5-6 days. Why can’t governments just supply deep-freezers?” asks Gupta.
There is a reason the 50-year-old gym equipment manufacturer has such interest in deep-freezers. Gupta lost five members of his family — two daughters aged 10 and 12, his elder brother, his sister-in-law and his teenaged niece — on April 10, 2006, when a short circuit led to a fire and engulfed an electronics exhibition held under three huge canopies at Meerut’s Victoria Park, killing 64 people.
Ever since, Gupta has been at the forefront of the fight to seek justice for victims of the fire. Last month, eight years after he moved the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe into the fire, the apex court ordered the setting up of a one-member inquiry commission to look into the tragedy.
That day, he says, his children had accompanied his brother’s family to the exhibition “because we wanted to buy an airconditioner for the children’s room. As soon as they entered the tent, the fire broke out. I later learnt that that it took just three minutes for the entire tent to go up in flames.” The day that had begun with plans of a movie outing had gone horribly wrong for Gupta and his family.
Among the 64 who died that day was a 35-year-old woman whose body lay unclaimed at the Lala Lajpat Rai Medical College hospital. “The body lay there for two-three days, and because the hospital had no deep-freezer, it was shifted to a private hospital where it was kept for nine months. I wanted the body to be cremated with respect, for which I met the DM and wrote letters to then chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. It was only when Justice O P Garg, who was a heading a commission to probe into the fire, summoned the Meerut SSP about the unclaimed body that he handed it over to me for cremation,” he says.
Each of the deep-freezers has two seven-foot-long, 30-inch-wide trays on which corpses can lie.
About seven months ago, he wrote a letter to the District Magistrate’s continued…