“My face has turned my enemy,” is how Maruti Bhujangrao Kamje of Kerur-H in Bhalki taluk describes his fate.
The 19-year-old survived the Dilsukhnagar bomb blast in Hyderabad in February. But it left him disfigured as he lost an eye. Doctors removed the eyeball that was badly damaged and stitched the two eyelids together to stop further infection. Deprived of binocular vision, he has difficulty climbing steps or gauging the distance of an approaching vehicle.
The young man who quit studying after SSLC can’t get a job. “Not even as an assistant to a cook, a waiter or a sales boy,” he says. He has just come back after a week of fruitless job hunt in Pune.
“They say customers are offended by my face. No one is willing to employ me. Doctors at the LV Prasad institute in Hyderabad, who treated me, had promised to fit a glass eye to retain the normal look on my face. But they are yet to do it,” he said.
His father died two years ago. He has an ailing mother and aged grandmother to look after.
The family lives in a two-room kutcha house built on a 100 sq ft plot. They don’t own any farmland. His mother, Vitha Bai, works as a farm labourer. Her mother Subhadra Bai joins her sometimes.
His family complained that the Andhra Pradesh government did not keep its promise of providing increased compensation or giving him a job. “We got only around Rs. 1 lakh from the government. Treatment was free. We did not get anything else,” Ms. Vitha Bai said. Maruti has sent an application to the State government for a job through his cousin Vishwanath, who is in Hyderabad.
The Karnataka government has not helped the family either. “Ishwar Khandre, MLA, gave them Rs. 10,000 from his pocket. They have got nothing from the government,” Dattatreya Dhannure, a neighbour, said. The promise of a subsidised house under Ashraya scheme made by some local Congress leaders has not been kept.
Mr. Dhannure, who is a gram panchayat member, wondered how the doctors came to the conclusion that Maruti suffered only from a 30 per cent handicap. “God has given us two eyes. When you lose one, it should naturally be 50 per cent handicap. Why are they limiting it to 30 per cent?” he asked.
“What is more, the medical document that evaluated the extent of handicap has the words ‘Not A Medical Certificate’ written on top. What is the meaning of that? Does it mean he has to go around hospitals to get another certificate?” Mr. Dhannure said.
A BPL ration card is the only relief for the family. “Now that we are getting rice at Re. 1 a kg, we don’t need to spend much on food. However, the government could help us by giving oil and sugar at low prices,” Ms. Subhadra Bai said.
Maruti, who had gone to Hyderabad to earn a livelihood as an assistant in a roadside sweet meat shop, remembers that fateful evening. “I had gone out for tea when the blast happened. Suddenly, there was blood all over my face and I ran to the shop owner who sent me to a nearby hospital,” he said.