"There is no value for human life in India. I’m just doing my bit to prove this impression untrue." That’s been the refrain of 50-year-old Rajendra Parkar — a high court lawyer who has been filing railway tribunal claims for 11/7 victims without charging a fee — for the past year. While other advocates take 10 to 12 per cent of the compensation received by victims, Parkar shuns profit in this case.
The loss is no bother, he said. "My income has been almost zero since I have taken up these claims. My clients have suffered, but there’s nothing like helping the innocent and their relatives," said Parkar, going through a bunch of papers in his one-room office in Malad. "The claims had to be filed within a year of the attack, so I’ve been very busy these last few days," said the Goregaon resident.
Parkar has filed claims on behalf of 110 victims, including relatives of 20 who died in the train attacks. So far, only 20 claims have been dealt with.
Parkar got involved after former MP Kirit Somaiya asked him to help. "I thought there would be 10 to 12 advocates working with me. But that was not the case,” said Parkar. “However, I accepted the brief as a social cause."
Parkar comes from a family long associated with the law. His grandfather was a policeman, while his father was an income-tax inspector. His two brothers are also advocates, while his sister is the deputy charity commissioner.
"With my work at a virtual standstill, my wife Resham (46), who works in a pharmaceutical company, is the one who has borne a great burden. She has been tremendously supportive," said Parkar, who has an 11-year-old son.
Parkar said the Railway Act of 1989, relating to compensation for blast victims, needs to be amended. "I wrote to the President, prime minister, railway minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi that the act needs to specify a higher, maximum compensation," Parkar said. "The victim’s economic condition needs to be considered. No one has acknowledged my letters."
As Parkar prepared for a lunch break, a man injured in the Matunga station blast approached him. Parkar quickly postponed his lunch by 20 minutes to collect the relevant papers. "July 10 is the last day for claims," he explained. "If the claim is not filed, the victim will have to first give a valid reason for being late before the claim can be considered."