The controversy over compensation announced for the families of the Gurdaspur terror attack victims is largely the result of different yardsticks of the Punjab government in different cases.
The two policies - of ex-gratia payment to the affected and government jobs on compassionate grounds - have been rendered pointless, with the victims' relatives now deciding the compensation criteria, by even delaying funerals, if that's what it takes. With the opposition parties goading these families, the state government is forced to give in to the demands to do either damage control or get out of the pressure situation.
On May 2, 2013, when Sarabjit Singh of Tarn Taran's Bhikhiwind village died at the hands of fellow inmates in a Pakistani jail in Lahore, the Punjab government announced an ex-gratia payment of `1 crore and state jobs offer for both of his daughters - naib tehsildar's for the elder, a graduate, and teacher's for the other.
"As my sister, Poonam Kaur, didn't like the offer of art-and-craft teacher's job, the government helped us get a gas agency from the Centre," said Swapandeep Kaur, Sarabjit's elder daughter, posted as naib tehsildar in Jalandhar district. While the compensation did not fit any ex-gratia policy, sources say it came as Sarabjit's death had become an issue of national outrage against Pakistan, and "an exceptional gesture" was needed to project its seriousness.
Amritsar ASI case
In December 2012, the government arbitrariness was on show again after an Akali leader allegedly killed Punjab Police assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Ravinder Pal Singh in Amritsar because the cop had objected to the harassment of his daughter by goons.
In an attempt to control public outrage, the government announced that it would make
the slain ASI's daughter, Robinjeet Kaur, a naib tehsildar. She got the appointment letter on December 15, 2012, on the day of her father's bhog.
Gurdaspur SP case
On July 27, Gurdaspur superintendent of police (detective) Baljit Singh died fighting terrorists in the Dinanagar police station siege. Even though the country acknowledged his sacrifice, his family had no faith that the Punjab government would take care of a martyr's kin, so it decided not to cremate him until the SP's two daughters were promised the posts of naib tehsildar and his son was assured the position of an SP.
They took their cue from the precedent that was set in the Sarabjit Singh case. This Thursday, the government offered the post DSP (deputy superintendent of police) to the son, besides Rs 25 lakh ex-gratia payment to the bereaved family. Similarly, all the cops and civilians injured in the Dinanagar encounter will receive an ex-gratia payment of `3 lakh each. A member each from the families of the three Home Guards personnel killed will be hired as constable in the state police. The children of the cops who died will get free education.
Moga bus horror
On April 29, a girl got killed after she, along with her mother, was thrown out of a Orbit Aviation bus owned by Punjab's ruling family of the Badals. The official damages paid in what came to known as the Moga bus horror case set a new precedent in recompensing the state's civilian victims.
The girl's parents held on to her body for four days, demanding an FIR (first-information report) against deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, part owner in the bus company. With the Opposition on an indefinite protest outside the Moga civil hospital where the mother was admitted, and its leaders encouraging the family not to budge, the government was forced to announce `36 lakh as compensation to the family and a public-sector job for a member. Of this, Orbit was to pay `25 lakh from the Red Cross funds, Punjab's social welfare department was to contribute `5 lakh, and `1.20 lakh was to be ex-gratia payment. The Moga deputy commissioner announced another `4 lakh for the education expenses of the victim's brother, Akashdeep Singh. It was the first case where the state government had compensated someone for an alleged crime of the employees of a private company.
Ropar bus accident
At Rupnagar on July 9, a Dabwali Transport Company bus, again owned by Sukhbir, allegedly ran a scooterist over, and two days later, the protests were silenced by the payment of Rs 22.5 lakh to the family from an undisclosed source, besides a job offer to the victim's kin. The protesters had laid the body on the Rupnagar-Chandigarh road, shutting the highway for two days.
The Opposition leaders made a beeline to the site, and in no time, the government found itself in a bind. Having learnt from the Moga accident, talks with the victim's family were completed before the matter could be blown out of proportion.
THEY NEVER GOT IT
Phagwara ASI's family
Two years on since the night of March 31, 2013, when unidentified gunmen killed assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Gurdev Singh near popular restaurant Haveli on the Jalandhar-Phagwara national highway, his family awaits compassionate job for his son.
The ASI was on traffic-patrol duty near the restaurant and had chased alleged drug smugglers inside the washroom of a hotel when one of them fired at him from a 9mm carbine. Parminder Singh, cop's elder son, said that at the cremation, all the politicians had made big promises of financial help to the family. "They didn't even give me the promised job, which I deserve on compassionate ground, since my father died in the line of duty," he said.
Kin of Chintpurni mishap victims
The state government has failed to give `1-lakh ex-gratia payment each to the Bholath families who lost 14 members in an accident near the Manguwal barrier of Hoshiarpur when a truck bringing them back from the Chintpurni pilgrimage fell into a gorge on October 9, 2013. The promise was made on the accident day.
Punjab's ex-gratia payment policy in case of death in terrorist attacks gives Rs 2 lakh to policemen and Home Guards personnel, besides Rs 1 lakh to civilians. The Union government gives another Rs 3 lakh in these cases, while the wounded get between `5,000 and 1 lakh, depending on the kind of injury. The monthly pension to widows, dependent parents, or orphan children is Rs 2,500. The education allowance for children is `500 a month.
The policy on compassionate jobs to personnel killed in service gives the widow or a dependent son or a dependent daughter a government job on compassionate ground, but for category 'C' or 'D' employee, and that too based on the educational qualification of the dependent.