Heartbreakingly, the auto driver had been returning after cremating his wife when the massive hoarding came crashing down on him.
On October 5, 17-year-old Samriddhi and four-year-old Samarth were travelling back with their grandmother Rukmini in the auto rickshaw their father Shivaji Pardeshi was driving from a crematorium in Pune. The children were returning home after saying their final goodbyes to their mother Preeti who had passed away the day before, when a massive hoarding came crashing down.
Crushed beneath the boarding was Shivaji, who at the time was giving directions to a fellow commuter. He succumbed to his injuries on the way to Sassoon General Hospital a few hours later.
“Within a second, I saw my son fall to the ground and blood everywhere. I started shouting, and Samarth started crying. I didn’t know what to do. I saw my son die before my eyes. I am barely alive myself,” Rukmini told the Pune Mirror.
With their grandmother barely able to work as a domestic worker due to serious leg and back problems both orphans Samriddhi and Samarth (fondly known as Devansh) were not merely dealing with the devastating loss of their mother and father in quick succession, but also doubts about how they would survive in the city.
That’s when social worker Gayatri Pathak came to the picture. On her way past the June Bazaar area, she witnessed the horrific accident and the ensuing chaos. On learning about the fate of their parents, Pathak decided to take responsibility of the orphans.
“One cannot imagine what Samriddhi and Samarth have gone through after losing both parents in such a short span of time. I have decided to formally take charge of their expenses and am writing to the government.
Ideally, since the children have been orphaned due to the government’s bungling, it should take care of their education, jobs and all future requirements. However, I will ensure that the children are officially adopted, and till the formalities are complete, I will take care of all their needs,” Pathak told the Pune Mirror.
Pathak has her own non-profit called Sanath Welfare Foundation, which works for education, rights and rehabilitation of children.
With no one to look after her grandmother, Samriddhi, a Class XI science student from Wadia College, has decided that she and her brother will look after their ailing grandmother living in the narrow bylanes of Nana Peth.
“It was my father’s dream that I pursue a college degree and become an educated, independent girl. My father toiled every day to earn [money] and maintain the family, but never stopped me from going to school. I will be happy to get adopted, but as of now, I will remain with my grandmother as she has no one else. But, we want madam (Pathak) and the government to help us so that I can fulfil my parents’ dream,” Samriddhi told the Pune Mirror.
Thus far the police have arrested two employees of the Indian Railways (an engineer and his assistant), although the family believe that other senior officials and employees of the contract company should be apprehended as well for letting this incident happen.
“We want senior people in the railways and contract company to be arrested. The police usually arrest the juniors and the workers while the bigger names who are actually responsible for the act walk free. I have been going to the Police Commissionerate to give applications, seek a separate FIR to be filed where the names of the railway officials directly working on the site and the senior officials are named,” says Pathak to the publication.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)