Close to three weeks after the blast at the German Bakery, the Pune police have handed over the site to the owner.
Speaking to The Hindu, Commissioner of Police Satyapal Singh said, “From our side, the site has been cleared to be handed back.”
Bakery owner Smita Kharose informed that Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Anil Kumbhare met her on Wednesday and gave her an oral clearance. However, she still awaits a written clearance from either the police or the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) before work for rebuilding the bakery could begin.
“I have written to Peter Lobo [senior police inspector of the ATS's Pune unit], asking for a written clearance. However, he is yet to get back to me.”
Bakery manager and co-founder Ram Gopal Karkee said, “We want it in writing [from the investigating agencies] that they have collected whatever evidence required from the site and that it has been handed back to us. Or we might face problems later.”
The district administration has completed an assessment of the damage and forwarded a compensation proposal of Rs. 14.23 lakh to the State government for its consideration.
Ms. Kharose said her savings would not suffice for rebuilding and, in the absence of an insurance policy, she was dependent on the compensation to reclaim her only source of income. There were concerns that the proposed compensation may also fall short of the potential expenses. She estimated that at least Rs. 25 lakh would be needed.
Mr. Karkee said, “Fifteen years ago, it had cost us Rs. 15.8 lakh just to renovate the bakery. Now, we have to rebuild it from scratch. The compensation amount proposed will certainly not be enough.”
He said they could not depend on private donations from the bakery's customers as their clientele consisted mostly of students and tourists. At most, they would make Rs. 50,000 by way of contributions.
“Initially, we were assured by politicians and the District Collector that they would like to see the bakery restarted within 15 days of the blast. But it is almost a month now. We had asked our employees [most of whom are from Nepal] not to go back. We are paying their salaries, taking care of their lodging and food expenses. They will start looking for other jobs if the bakery is not restarted soon.”
With necessary clearances and money at their disposal, it will be possible to restart the bakery within a month's time, he said. The administration could “guide” them about security arrangements. However, if the prerequisite procedures dragged on for months, he feared people would slowly forget about the bakery, once an international landmark in the Koregaon Park area.