An embattled Punjab deputy chief minister on Saturday ordered all buses of his transport company to be taken off the road, three days after a minor girl died after being allegedly thrown out from a moving vehicle by a group of molesters.
The incident in one of the buses of Orbit Aviation, a company owned by the family of deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal has turned into a political stand-off between the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the opposition which has mounted pressure for his resignation.
Sources said Badal asked the management of Orbit Aviation to take all its buses off the road “with immediate effect” and provide an orientation course for the entire staff operating the buses.
The 13-year-old teenager and her mother had boarded the bus at Moga on Wednesday and they were thrown out after being subjected to indecent gestures and lewd comments following an altercation over the fare. Four men have been arrested in the case.
A minister of the ruling party caused a fresh controversy on Saturday by describing the death of the girl as “God’s will”.
“Nobody can stop accidents. Whatever happens is God's will,” education minister Surjit Singh Rakhra said.
“We also travel every day, we do not know what will happen,” said Rakhra, a SAD leader. “We will take precautions in future but we can’t stand in front of nature, whether it’s an accident or any other thing.”
The girl’s family has decided not to cremate her body, which has been kept in a mortuary, till the owners of the company running the bus are booked for her death.
The girl’s father has alleged that he is being pressured by “some people” to reach a compromise on the issue. The family has turned down the Punjab government’s offer of Rs 20 lakh as compensation.
The girl’s father has sought security for the family apprehending threat to their lives and claimed they were under political pressure to “hush up” the matter.
“We are not going to cremate our daughter whose body has been kept in a mortuary until and unless justice is done to us by initiating criminal case against the owner of the bus,” the victim’s father Sukhdev Singh said.
He also sought a written assurance from the authorities that no harm would be brought to the family.
“We, including my son, should be given security cover because we are feeling threatened. A written assurance should be given undertaking responsibility in the event of any harm to any of our family members,” he told journalists.
He also stuck to his demand for registration of a case against Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal and cancellation of road permits of Orbit Aviation, which owned the bus from which the deceased and her mother were thrown out after being molested, before the family performed her last rites.