Residents of Dhanaula blocked the Bathinda-Chandigarh national highway on Saturday after parking the three ambulances carrying bodies of three youths who, after sustaining burn injuries, died in the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, on Friday.
The local market remained closed and people shouted slogans against the state government and deputy commissioner (DC) alleging use of ‘insulting words’ by the DC against the deceased. When vehicles started using an alternate route, then women protesters held a separate blockade there to restrict the movement of vehicles.
About two weeks ago, when the owner of Jassal Autoworks, a motorcycle repair shop, lit a match stick to prepare tea on a gas stove in his shop, the LPG cylinder caught fire. Five people, sitting in the shop at the time of the mishap, suffered serious burns. They were brought to the civil hospital, Barnala, then were shifted to Govt Rajindra hospital, Patiala and ultimately to PGIMER in Chandigarh.
Two of the victims Babu Khan of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh and Jagtar Singh of Bhaini Jassa village had died earlier, while Visakha Singh of Bhaini Jassa, Rohit Kumar and Satnam Singh of Dhanaula died on Friday.
The victims, all aged between 16 and 25, were reportedly only sons of their parents. Four of them were married while Jagtar had got married only 5 months ago. Except Rohit, who was running a karyana shop, all were into motorcycle repair work.
SDM Barnala, Amandeep Bansal and AC (grievances) reached the spot to pacify the protestants, but in vain.
Vakil Singh Jodhpur, a relative of victim Visakha Singh, said, “When we met the deputy commissioner about a week ago, he misbehaved with us and said that ‘such incidents keep on happening and people keep on dying. It is a routine and the administration cannot pay treatment expenses to all.”
Refuting allegations of misbehaviour, DC Gurloveleen Singh Sidhu said, “The district administration has no authority to announce any compensation or to foot the medical bill. Protesters are giving wrong twist to facts and using pressure tactics. They were demanding compensation out of the Red Cross funds, that I am not authorised to disburse.”
“The victims have died of their own negligence and the administration is not at fault,” added Sidhu. Regarding the words used by the DC, Commissioner of Patiala division Ajit Singh Pannu said, “No, no, the DC is not wrong. He is positive. He is sending me his recommendation for compensation to the families of victims, which I will forward to the state government.”
Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann said, “In sympathy with the families of the victims, I will utilise offers from NGOs to help the families financially. We cannot be a mute spectator to bodies lying on the road. The administration should be quick to handle the situation lest it becomes violent. I have asked the DC to send a proposal to the state government with a recommendation of maximum financial support.”