Poonam Singh

January 26 is the special occasion when the entire India joins to celebrate her Republic Day with spirit of gaiety, patriotism and pride, but for some, this day also brings back the unforgettable memories of horror. 

Today marks twenty years since a balloon gas filling cylinder mishap wreaked havoc during State-level Republic Day parade in Bhubaneswar leading to injuries to as many as 21 people, many of whom were rendered blind. 

The victims, many of whom were school children are still bearing the brunt of the accident as it changed their whole lives.

Recounting the fatal incident, one of the victims, B Srinivas Rao narrates how it completely turned his world upside down. 

Rao who was then a class 8 student remembered, how he had won second prize in a singing competition and had come to watch the parade with so much joy but little did he know that the day would nearly have been his last. 

"I had many dreams like my parents but it all washed away," says a poignant Rao.

Another victim Biswajit Panda said it was sheer bad luck and wished that had he overslept that day, he might have been living a completely different life now.

Biswajit was a class X student at the time of the mishap, still cannot get over the incident. Now running a shop in vending zone provided by the government, he has urged the administration to provide a house to all victims.

"At least give us a home as it will be difficult for us to rent a home after our parents die. We will be forced to live on footpath or go back to our villages," said Biswajit.

Notably, some of the victims of the dreadful accident had knocked on the doors of the Odisha Human Rights Commission demanding adequate compensation and jobs from the State govt.

On January 26, 2002, around 9 am on Mahatma Gandhi Marg the deadly blast took place when the cap of a hydrogen carbide-filled cylinder of a balloon seller had burst, causing the tragedy. The tragic incident had left injuring 21 persons, including 14 school children. Nine victims of the blast had lost their eyesight for forever.

(Edited By Suryakant Jena)

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