The government has decided to give additional compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the 3,325 victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and plans to disburse it “as soon as possible”.
The politically significant decision comes at a time when Delhi — home to a majority of the affected families — is facing the possibility of a new government being formed or of fresh elections being held.
It also comes on the eve of the 30th death anniversary of Indira Gandhi, whose assassination by her Sikh bodyguards triggered the riots. Of the 3,325 victims, 2,733 were killed in Delhi alone and the rest in states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Thirty years on, many of the riot cases are still stuck in courts.
“The decision was taken by Union home minister Rajnath Singh a week ago,” a government official said Thursday.Besides, the home ministry has also decided to enhance compensation to all civilian victims of communal, terrorist or Maoist violence from the existing Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
Earlier in 2006, the UPA government under Manmohan Singh had announced a package of Rs 717 crore for the 1984 riots victims, which included Rs 3.5 lakh for the families of the dead and financial assistance to the injured and those who lost their property. This package could not be fully disbursed due to disputes amongst claimants and around Rs 200 crore of it remains unutilised.
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The fresh compensation — which came after the home minister received numerous petitions from Sikh outfits — will cost the exchequer Rs 166 crore and will be in addition to whatever the families have received so far from the Centre and states.
The BJP has repeatedly traded charges with the Congress over the alleged involvement of its leaders in the riots. Singh had in 2005 apologised for the violence while just before this year’s general elections, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had admitted some party members may have been involved.
Welcoming the decision, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said, “By showing extreme sensitivity to the demands repeatedly raised by us, the PM has shown how deeply he felt the pain of the Sikh community. As part of the alliance with the BJP, we are thankful to PM Modi.”
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