Even as the Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan and the KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala raise the demand of providing government jobs to one person each from the family of those killed in the Chala gas tanker lorry explosion near Kannur on August 27, dependents of the 2009 gas tanker blast at Karunagapally near Kollam are still waiting for the promised government jobs.
It was at about 3.50 a.m. on December 31, 2009 that the LPG gas tanker rammed a car at Punthentheruvu junction and fell on its side causing the gas explosion. Twelve out of eighteen persons who suffered serious burns in the explosion were killed. Most of them were natives of Karunagapally and nearby areas who rushed to the scene of the accident for rescue operations.
After the accident gas began to leak out from the tanker. Unaware that there would be an explosion those present in the vicinity at that time rushed and engaged in rescue operations. Those killed were from economically weak families and many of them daily wage earners. The State government had at that time announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh each to the dependents of those killed. An equal amount was also paid by the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).
The tanker was carrying 18 tonnes of LPG from Kochi to the IOC’s refilling plant at Paripally near Kollam. In addition to the financial compensation, Mr. Achuthanandan, who was the then chief minister, had also promised government employment to one person each from the family of those killed. Except for a dependent each of the two civil police officers and a Fire and Rescue Service personnel killed in the explosion, the dependents of no other victims have been provided with jobs.
Talking to The Hindu on Sunday the dependents of the others said that though the compensation amount was given, none of them have been provided with jobs so far and that they have now lost hopes of getting the promised jobs. Only one person who survived after getting injured in the explosion has been provided employment.
24 year old Ashraf, a pickup van driver was having tea from a way side staff when the accident occurred. He was one of the first to rush to the scene. Suffering serious injuries in the explosion he died the same day at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital (MCH). His wife Shamna was eight months pregnant at that time. His father Hassankunju said that though she had passed her SSLC she has not been provided the promised job so far. Ashraf has a brother who too has passed SSLC but his also not being considered for a job.
44 year old Abdul Samad was a head load worker at a nearby fish wholesale market. It was while he was engaged in work that the accident took place and he rushed to the scene for rescue operations. Badly injured in the explosion he succumbed to his injuries the next day at the MCH leaving behind his wife and two daughters. The widow Sulfath told The Hindu that when she approached the authorities for job she was told that since she had not passed her SSLC she cannot be considered.
In the hope of getting the job, she sat for the SSLC examination the next year and passed. Though she has been running from pillar to post for the past two years for the job, her petitions are being constantly rejected. The family is pulling forward with help from generous relatives. Her daughter Subina who is doing her Plus Two said that they had been staying in a rented house and the compensation amount was used to build their own house.
A bright student, she is keen on higher studies but faces financial constrains. If her mother is given the promised job, it would bring some relief. But now they have lost all hope. She said that at the time of such accidents, the government talks of better roads and restrictions of tanker lorries. But soon afterwards, these are forgotten and it results in accidents like the one which had taken place at Chala. The government should at least now open its eyes and act. Otherwise more families would get orphaned like mine, she said as tears rolled down her eyes.
32 year old Biju was also a head load worker at the fish wholesale market. After sustaining serious burns in the explosion he died the same day at the MCH leaving behind his wife Raseena, a daughter and two sons. Raseena’s application too for a job was rejected because she had not passed her SSLC. The very next year she sat for the examination in hope of getting the promise job and passed.
Though she had sent several petitions for the purpose after that, she has not received any intimation so far on providing her with the employment promised by the then Chief Minister. Even though she had followed it up with the present government, there is no reply. She wept as she said that she has now lost hope in getting that promised job.