Nine lives and one year later

They could have mourned the losses of their near and dear ones and walked away. Instead, within a year of the Carlton Towers fire, they created Bengaluru's annual fireman awards.

It was a day to remember the nine lives lost and 70 others who were injured in the fire that broke out at Carlton Towers, Indiranagar on 23rd February 2010. A memorial service was organised exactly one year later at the Manipal Hospital auditorium by Beyond Carlton, a trust founded by Uday Vijayan. Vijayan is father of one of the victims, Akhil Uday. The trust carries on fire safety awareness initiatives at public places and educational institutions to prevent another fire like the one that broke out in Carlton Towers.

Lighting the lamp, with a loss felt deeply. Pic: YM.

After an emotional candle lighting ceremony that began on Wednesday evening at 4pm, those who had assembled remembered the victims by observing a minute of silence. Friends, family and colleagues of the victims stepped forward to share stories and moments of how the departed had made a difference in their lives.

Desmond, brother of Benzie Kumar recalled her fondness for animals and how she once sheltered puppies during heavy rains. "l was in Kolkata when the incident happened. I was not carrying any cell phone and found out about it only when I reached home. My world came crashing down when I heard the news", said Desmond.

Manisha Ramakrishnan, one of the survivors, who is yet to recover physically from the mishap, said that she tries to not let the incident stop her from leading a normal life. "I am just happy to be alive. I feel like I am reborn again", she said.

An award that moved them and made them proud. From left: K T Prakash, Venkatesh T and Mudasir Hussain. Pic: Yogaraj Mudalgi.

Firemen awarded

It was also a day to honour the heroes from the Karnataka State Fire and Emergency Services who saved many lives during that fire without giving a thought to theirs. The Beyond Carlton trust has instituted ‘Firemen of the Year’ award to recognise the services of the firemen.  At the memorial service, K T Prakash, Mudasir Hussain, and Venkatesh T were recognised for their rescue efforts on that fateful day at Carlton Towers.

One of the firemen, K T Prakash said that the pride he felt on receiving the award was much more than any government award could have made him feel. "At the time of the incident our only aim was to protect the people", he said. One of the first firemen or reach the spot, Venkatesha T said that the award motivates them do more good work. "When people come forward like this, the bonding between them and agencies like us increases. The happiness it brings to us is immense", he added. 

Nine lives, memorialised. Akhil Uday, Surabhi, Sunil Iyer, Siddharth, Benzie, Rajesh, Madan Purohit, R Savitha and Fayaz Pasha. Pic: YM.

The Firemen of the Year awards will be an annual award given to firemen in the city based on consultation with the Karnataka State Fire & Emergency Services Department.

PIL filed in the High Court

Earlier, in a related development, the Beyond Carlton trust filed a public interest litigation (PIL) on 1st December 2010 at the Karnataka High Court. Nitin Dubey, one of the survivors and a member of Beyond Carlton spoke to Citizen Matters later over the phone. "We have named the State Government, Fire department, BBMP, BDA, BWSSB and BESCOM in the PIL", he said. The PIL, says Dubey, pleads for passing necessary directions to ensure fire safety laws are complied with and the officials responsible have the authority to inspect buildings periodically. "We have asked that essential services to any high rise building should be withheld if it is found that there have been violations of safety laws."

The memorial service began at 4pm and was held at Manipal Hospital Auditorium. Pic: YM.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice A S Bopanna has given the state and BBMP four weeks to file counter affidavits and adjourned the case to March 28, the DNA reported recently.

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