The Kollam temple fire that claimed over 100 lives and injured over 350 people has garnered the attention of officials for alleged overriding of restrictions on competitive fireworks. But over the past several years, when fireworks were used as entertainment in competitions organized by the Puttingal temple as part of festivities, one lone crusader continuously voiced her concerns regarding the recurring pyrotechnic displays and the inconveniences it caused.
On 1st April, a worried 80-year-old woman, Pankajakshi Amma, wrote to the district collector, A Shainamol, complaining about the yearly damage that the fireworks caused to her house owing to the small distance between the temple and her residence. Though occupants of several houses in the vicinity of the temple objected to the disruptive usage of fireworks, the only person who persevered in her struggle against the temple authorities was this woman.
Pankajakshi is a cardiac patient whose daughter, Anitha, lives in London with her family. Every year, Anitha and her husband come over to their native place during the temple festival and vacate Pankajakshi’s house during the fireworks in order to escape the noise and danger. This routine saved their family from this man-made disaster this year.
After Pankajakshi officially complained against the temple authorities, some men visited her outhouse and threatened her and her family. She said, “Some men came here and threatened us saying we will conduct the competitive fireworks display and if we are not allowed to do so, we will kill all of you and dump you in the river” as reported by The News Minute. Her son-in-law Prakash witnessed the intimidation after which he headed to the temple where he saw two injured people being carried out while the fireworks display continued. “Something had happened and the ambulances arrived. Yet the fireworks display continued to go on in full force. After 10 minutes, there was this huge explosion. Electricity snapped and the entire area was plunged into darkness after the massive explosion. We couldn’t see a thing,” he said.
When the family returned to Pankajakshi’s house the day after the firework massacre, the house had been damaged completely. What is further disconcerting is Pankajakshi’s belief that the fireworks extravaganza will return to normalcy as soon as the news of the temple fire dies out. She vows to continue to fight the concerned authorities until a legal ban is imposed.
The elderly woman who underwent angioplasty and bypass has been fighting a one-sided battle to prevent the avoidable atrocities in her neighbourhood. Her efforts have finally come to light in the wake of the terrible tragedy that occurred at the temple owing to complete carelessness and disobedience. What if more people had backed and supported this woman? A hundred lives could have been saved.
The Logical Indian salutes Pankajakshi for her constant fight against the staunch authorities. We hope her complaint is given complete attention while the probe into the tragedy exposes the defaulters and punishes them appropriately.
“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” – Mahatma Gandhi