59 people died. More than 100 people were seriously injured. Nearly 20 years later, the reparation for that is Rs. 60 crores for the Delhi Government. The fire happened in 1997. In 2008, the accused (which included the Ansal brothers) were convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment by the Trial Court. In 2008, the Delhi High Court upheld the conviction of six of the accused, but reduced the imprisonment of the Ansal brothers to one year. An appeal was filed before the Supreme Court by the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy ‘(AVUT’) and the CBI for enhancement of sentence of the Ansal brothers. Finally, in August 2015, the Apex Court has held that keeping in mind the advanced ages of the two brothers (67 and 75) and the few months that they have each already spent in jail, a fine of Rs. 60 crores will suffice. With that paid, the brothers shall finally walk free now. This money is to be used to build a trauma centre. It maybe noted that the compensation payable to victims/ next of kin was fixed by the Supreme Court in 2011 at Rs. 10 lacs each for the next of kin of victims above 20 years of age, and Rs 7.5 lakh for victims under 20 years.
As the management of the company which owned the cinema, the Ansal brothers allowed the installation of the transformer (which malfunctioned and started the fire) in the cinema premises in complete violation of Electricity Rules. There were various structural deviations inside the theatre and in the cinema building which were in complete violation of safety and building provisions and obstructed the quick exit of people in the theatre which fact. The Ansal brothers were ably assisted by the various government officials who turned a blind eye to the deviations in the building. The concerned officials from MCD, Delhi Vidyut Board and Delhi Fire Service as well as some employees of the cinema were also convicted and sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 2 – 7 years. The fire occurred on 13th June 1997. The matter has finally come to a close in August 2015, i.e., nearly 20 years later. For the past 18 years, the AVUT and CBI has been running back and forth from the Trial Court to the High Court to the Supreme Court trying to get justice for the victims. The matter was lengthened for so long because of the delaying tactics adopted by the Ansals. Where is the justice in this? Have they been targeted because they are rich as they have so claimed? Was the Uphaar tragedy really an accident? I am not saying that they started the fire, but I definitely say and believe that in a bid to generate a little more money, the Ansals knowingly violated several norms where the exit points were obstructed by increasing seats in the theatre, aisles were blocked, other tenants were permitted in the building to set up their shop/ counter in landings and passageways which blocked the passages, allowing a second transformer to be installed without any permissions, allowing cars to be parked very close to the transformers, and were well aware that such deviations could result in the death of people in case of any tragedy. Their indifferent bending of the rules to suit their needs is what shows their callous negligent attitude, along with the able backing of the MCD, Delhi Vidyut Board and Delhi Fire Services. There are no mitigating factors in the instant case – they dragged on the proceedings, they bickered on the compensation payable to the victims, they offered no words of sympathy or apology to the next of kin, they never took any responsibility for the fire, they offered no ex gratia compensation, the evaded arrest. Lesser mortals than the Ansals would have been stuck in jail for a very long time.
The surplus profit of Ansal Buildwell Limited for FY 2013-14 is Rs. 482.36 lacs while Ansals API declared a profit of Rs. 1353 lacs in FY 2013-14. The CMD of Ansals Buildwell is Gopal Ansal. The Chairman of Ansals API is Sushil Ansal. Will Rs. 30 crores really make such a difference to them today? The SC order has set a very wrong precedent. Break a few laws, be callous when you have caused the death of nearly 60 people, drag on legal proceedings and finally, throw money at the problem to make it all go away. Justice delayed is indeed justice denied.
I’m so disappointed with so-called editorials and opinion pieces these days.
When I read an editorial or an opinion piece, I want to know the stand of the author. I don’t enjoy reading cleverly or diplomatically worded articles with arguments that can swing either way. That’s not an opinion. That’s a pendulum. And if you have a pendulum, that makes you a clock. A lot of the editorials or articles I read these days use beautiful words, but don’t leave an impression on me. I don’t take anything away from them – good or bad. When I was in school, my English teachers consistently said – have a beginning where you put forth your hypothesis, have a middle where you put forth your arguments and finally have a solid conclusion where you put forth your opinion. Unfortunately they probably didn’t have the same teachers that I did. Most opinion pieces these days merely oppose the “In thing that day”, no matter if there’s no logic to their opposition because it’s cool to do so, because it’s intellectual to do so, put forth a few moral arguments which hold no water and finally dismiss all those who disagree with them as a lynch mob, hecklers, Sanghis, bhakts etc. There was a time when we would be told to read editorials and then we’d discuss them, debate on them. Not any more.
I have finally taken the plunge. I have finally bought a car. I am finally driving myself around.
For so many years I was driven around – by our driver, by the cabbie, by friends, by my mom. Friends encouraged me to learn how to drive. And I’d brandish my driving license at them. Yes I have had a license since 2004.
The story began when I learnt how to shift gears in a stationary car way back when I was 15 on my Dad’s office waali gaadi, a heavy duty Ambassador. Fast forward to 2004. I went to a driving school, learnt how to drive and got my license as well made. Thereafter I never drove again. I made a few ventures on our Vento last year on lovely empty Gurgaon roads on bright sunny afternoons with the driver. The moment any other vehicle was anywhere on the same road (even if it was 5 kms behind me) I’d simply freeze. If anyone whizzed past me, I’d panic and start randomly pressing at any pedal. The driver diplomatically convinced me to drop the idea. Now fast forward to March 2015 when I joined my new office (which is 33 kms from home, that is faaaaaarr). A second car became a most urgent need. Not wanting to see all my money going in paying the EMI, driver’s salary and fuel bills, I decided it was high time I learnt (re-learnt) how to drive. Hence, lots of research happened (which meant I checked a couple of sites online to get an idea of the prices and then called a friend who’s very gyaani about cars). Also I was very clear that I didn’t want to invest my hard earned money in a second hand car. The husband decreed that we would hire a second driver to teach me for the next few months.
My lovely silver Polo joined our family and we became a 2 car household in April. Then began the hunt for another driver (since my husband didn’t want our driver running away because he had to teach me how to drive). I went through 4 drivers in about 2 months. Driver No. 1 ran away after I drove 10 kms at an agonizing 30 kms per hour and took me about 45 minutes on a relatively empty road. Driver No. 2 lasted for 15 days. Driver No. 3 was fired after the second day since I had to keep reminding him to use the indicator. Driver No. 4 lasted the longest – a full 18 days. Driver Nos. 2 & 4 managed to teach me somewhat to drive and not freeze there were other vehicles on the road. I was terrible at easing the car into first gear. The car would grind to a start under my confused control of the clutch & accelerator and then shudder to a halt. Every damn time. I’d hate stopping at signals because there’d be a queue of cars behind me honking away. I’d get tense. The car would not start. I’d get more tense. Cue more honking. I’d finally get out of the driver’s seat in a huff, apologetically smile at the cars behind me and get into the backseat. Driver No. 2 was sadistic (actually, he was very sweet). He’d make me drive the car a few meters. Then stop. Then ease into first gear again. several times a day. Rinse. Repeat. Till I got it right. Driver No. 4 was even more sadistic ( actually, he was also quite sweet). “Madam, aap mat dariye. Aap chaliye.” He made me drive on crowded roads. With multiple lanes.Cars switching between lanes without any indicators. In start – stop traffic. He’d nonchalantly wave at the honking cars behind me and point to the big red ‘L’ on the windshield. Till one day I realized that I wasn’t scared anymore of the other vehicles on the road. I wasn’t freezing in traffic. I was one among the other cars on the road.
After Driver No. 4, I tried to convince the husband that I could now drive solo to work. He asked me to take him for a drive. Knuckles turned white, lips were clenched and not a single word was spoken at the end of the drive. He had a really stiff drink at the end of it. Then he convinced our regular driver to go with me for a couple of more weeks. He sat in the backseat so I wouldn’t feel him figuratively standing on my head inside the car. After that I rebelled and decided it was time for me to drive solo. Surprisingly, the husband agreed. Without any arguments. That fact by itself made it a red letter day. Then I started driving solo. It takes me two hours on an average each way (because I’m too fattu to speed beyond 60 kms). I call the office boy down to guide me with parking when I reach work. The main thing is that I drive myself. Please take a moment to acknowledge that. This is empowering for me. I spent too many years being scared. Till I just decided that I am going to buy a car and drive it.I am woman. Hear me roar!
And stay out of my way when I’m on the road. I might just flip the finger at you if you switch lanes without an indicator or drive on full beam in well-lit roads or honk at me to go faster on a crowded road or suddenly go from the extreme right to turn left blocking the traffic or are a two wheeler meandering away on the road or have that horrible white disco-dancing LED light or suddenly zoom out of a lane onto incoming traffic without checking almost causing a pile-up. And if you have an ‘L’ on your car, I’m going to give you a big smile & thumbs-up as I pass you by.
My writing mojo’s baaaackkkkk!!!!!
Super kicked about it. For the past two years, I used to stare at a blank page on the laptop screen and wonder how to fill it up. I’d type a few random words, delete. Rinse. Repeat. The words probably didn’t flow out of my fingertips because I wasn’t in a good place mentally (yes I know that sounds like a lot of hogwash, but that’s how I feel) – work stress, personal stress, health issues, my dad passing away, mom’s health, husband’s health etc. Excuses excuses. Even when I was home last year, my husband kept urging me to just put pen to paper (figuratively) and just write, but I just couldn’t do it. It took me a month to write 5 pages of what I had hoped would be a novel. I read it again over the weekend. I didn’t like what I read and just deleted the whole file.
Now that I am back to being myself, not drowning in various sorrows, I find the words flowing again. Till very recently, I didn’t think I would ever write again. Now I have the
courage lack of fear of criticism to put it out there again for everyone to see. So fingers crossed, that this mojo doesn’t go away again.
This is the first thing I saw when I logged onto the Times of India website today. A woman who was two sheets to the wind drove her Audi on the wrong side of the road and rammed into a taxi, killing two people and injuring three others. Because of this woman’s sheer recklessness, two families have suffered a loss, which no amount of money can ever make up for. This was the first thought I had – anger at the drunk driver and empathy for the families of the deceased. The driver in question is a well-educated, well-paid corporate lawyer (driving an Audi) working in a relatively high management level position with a top corporate in south Bombay.
Unfortunately, there were a few people who ranted at the alleged implied sexism in the headline focusing on two words – “woman lawyer”. In their opinion, the headline reeked of sexism and implied that women were stereotyped as bad drivers, that there was no requirement to mention that the driver was a woman or that she was a lawyer etc. In my opinion the headline “Drunk driver rams Audi into cab, kills 2” or “Drunk lawyer rams Audi into cab, kills 2” carries lesser impact. If the driver had been a male lawyer working at a similar management position with a top corporate, the headline probably would have read slightly differently, though the result would have still been the same – two people would still be dead.
India has enough well-known women lawyers, so I don’t think the fact that the driver is a woman is what TOI is trying to drive home. The fact is that we usually expect a relatively higher level of caution from someone who is a vice-president legal with a top corporate (maybe not with regard to the leaking of confidential documents from a Ministry), the implicit logic being that a reckless person would not have probably reached such a high position with a reputed organisation. Had the driver been a BEST bus driver (drunk or not), our reaction probably would be “These bus drivers drive so recklessly. I hope he goes to jail” because we accept the fact that bus drivers aren’t bound by such a high degree of caution and attention to details. Had it been a drunk celebrity, our reaction would be “He’s also going to be out on bail like Salman”.
A VP-Legal who is driving absolutely drunk on the wrong side of the road for several kilometers, who has already grazed two cars, who was allegedly so drunk that she could barely stand yet had the presence of mind to try and bribe the victims to not call the cops at the scene of accident does not deserve any sympathy because she is a woman or because she is a divorcee. Her negligent and rash driving was the cause of two deaths. Though drunk, she ought to have been well aware that her drunk driving could result in someone’s death, and has also been therefore charged for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and I sincerely hope that the matter is tried fairly in a time-bound manner and the driver is penalised in accordnace with law to the fullest extent possible, with no reprieve.
Wow! It has been more than a year since I wrote here.
There has been lots of upheaval since then in my life! I quit my job in November 2013 for various personal reasons. I have travelled alot, written stuff and discarded it all, spent loads of time with my mom, cooked, spent time with my friends, got my temper under control (somewhat), took time to figure out some stuff, went back to being a student, read loads, studied loads, gave exams all over again.
I had three papers in December end (which meant that I missed out on all the Christmas parties). The same nervousness was there as it was in 2006 when I last gave an exam, as was the excitement and relief when they were over. As you can see, my blogging skills are rather rusty so I need to get them up and about again. I loved to write at one time, I don’t even know why or when I stopped.
Anyway, I am back to job hunting now. Things seem to be all in the air. Just keep your fingers crossed for me please. I need to get back to working again.
Its been a week since this world has changed. For the worse. This is now a world without my father.
My dad who commanded a submarine, who stood strong for his country is no more. He had been ailing for many years. He had a stroke in January. The doctors had told us to be prepared. My dad being the contrary person he is, beat the odds. However he never recovered his health. When my mom called, I broke down. However old we grow, however much we know in our heads that one day such a call will come, however strong we think we are, we can never be mentally prepared for it. We are never ready for it.
I leant to live in a world without my brother. I will now learn to live in a world without my father. Because I know they are both up there looking down on me, looking out for me.