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India's deadly terror attacks: What happens when the spotlight fades?

Families who've lost key members to the string of terror attacks that have hit India in recent years struggle to make ends meet, despite government assistance.

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At first, reporters, politicians, neighbors, and perfect strangers paid many visits. The politicians promised financial help. The state gave 750,000 rupees ($16,250) for daughter-in-law Sunita Micheal and grandson Alvin Micheal, but nothing for their son Micheal since his body was never found. The money went into a fixed deposit that Manisha will receive when she turns 18 in 2015.

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Few people in India have insurance or retirement benefits, relying instead on family in the absence of social safety nets. When breadwinners in a family get killed in high-profile deaths, the government will then step in to provide some assistance.

The standard government response of offering large lump sums like the Dass family received is not sufficient, argues Joseph. In order to access the money quickly, many families take out loans against – and lose a significant portion to – interest payments. Families don’t always know how to handle the money well and sometimes bicker over it.

The Dass’s have not opted to tap the money through a loan, but that leaves them with little to provide for Manisha until she becomes an adult. And their old age and first-hand experience with sudden death leaves them fearful of the future.

“The only thing that worries me night and day is how on earth will Manisha take care of herself if God forbid something happens to us?” says Dass, a retired foreman with Air India. He will watch his wife and Manisha from the balcony when they head to the market for groceries. In general, the family avoids going out all three together. “I lost three of them last time, what if it happens again?”

The most common offer of help isn’t money, but to adopt Manisha. But the suggestion of giving up their sole descendant pains them and they suspect the offers to be schemes to market her for sympathy donations.

While the Dass’s have grown more suspicious of people after the blast and the false promises of help, some people have also impressed them. After the blast, a television reporter asked Manisha what is the one thing she likes a lot, and she said she loved to dance. She added that her favorite dancer was Birju Maharaj, who happened to see the spot and is now giving her free Khatak lessons at his academy.

Manisha does not dream of being a professional dancer. Instead, she has set her sights on becoming a police officer.

“I have seen much of terror in India, which happened to me and happened to other people who have lost their parents, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters. So I just want to stop this terror,” she explains.

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