The family of a 13-year-old girl who died after being thrown off a bus in Moga district by her molesters accepted compensation offered to them on Sunday, ending a protest that embarrassed the ruling Badal family and hogged national headlines.
The girl was cremated at Lande Ke village and before that her family members met Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
“As the chief minister, I am responsible for safeguarding the honour of every daughter of Punjab. Whoever tries to outrage the honour of Punjab’s daughters will be given exemplary punishment,” the CM said.
Earlier in the day, he described the Moga incident as "intolerable" and "painful". "This (Moga bus incident) is intolerable. The death of a girl in such conditions is very painful to me...I am going to Moga (to meet the family of girl)."
A press release from the chief minister's office said the "concerned" bus company will pay Rs 24 lakh to family, while the state will offer job "to one of the family members of the victim in either government, board or corporation".
There was widespread anger when it emerged that the bus was operated by Orbit Aviation, a firm owned by the son of chief minister.
According to the victim's mother, they both boarded the bus from Moga at 4pm on Wednesday and were pushed off after being subjected to indecent gestures and lewd comments following an altercation over fares.
Demanding that the bus owners should be booked and licence of the bus service be cancelled, the family had initially refused to cremate the girl, accept compensation or allow a post-mortem amid a tense standoff between the state government and opposition parties, namely the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.
The settlement over compensation was reached amid high drama that lasted six hours at a Moga hospital, where the girl's mother is undergoing treatment.
Facing heat over the incident, deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, whose links with the bus company fuelled protests, had ordered all buses of his transport company to be taken off the road on Saturday.
Earlier on Sunday, a change of stand on the part of the victim's family was evident when they gave an approval for conducting post-mortem on the victim's body, which had been lying in a mortuary.
The Moga incident has sparked widespread outrage with many likening it to the December 16, 2012 gangrape in Delhi that galvanised the nation against crimes against women and sparked massive protests by civil rights groups and ordinary citizens.
Centre talks tough
The central government said it will take necessary steps, if required, on the Moga incident after getting a report from the state government.
Minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, said the Centre had asked the Punjab government for a report on Thursday and it will not be in a position to react before going through it.
“But I am sure the Punjab government was taking appropriate steps," he said, adding that if the Centre felt appropriate steps have not been taken, "then necessary advisories or suggestions will be given".
"But right now, when the issue is directly under the domain of the state government, it would not be proper for the MHA to react."
Cong ups ante
Citing conflict of interest, Congress leader Amarinder Singh said chief minister Parkash Singh Badal should either resign or shut down his transport and other businesses.
The Congress' deputy leader in Lok Sabha alleged that number of Badal family-owned buses had increased from 40 to 250 since they came to power.
"All these years, in a clear case of conflict of interest, you have brutally abused your position and power and multiplied your fleet of buses from 40 to 250 by threatening and bullying not only other private transporters, but also the PRTC (Pepsu Road Transport Corporation) and Punjab Roadways into submission."
"No government official or the police can dare to stop these buses as your conductors and drivers misbehave with officials and get away with it," he told Badal in a statement, adding, "the Moga incident was the outcome of the same immunity from law you have provided to your erring and bullying drivers and conductors."