The intervention of National Commission for Scheduled Castes vice-chairman Raj Kumar Verka has given the family of the octogenarian who burnt himself for pensioners’ rights a new hope for justice.
On April 18, Som Nath Anand, 83, of Dhilwan committed suicide in Kapurthala in protest after he didn’t receive his paltry pension of `250 for six months. He took the extreme step hoping that all pending pensions in Punjab will be released. Verka has asked Kapurthala’s senior superintendent of police (SSP) and deputy commissioner to file a report about the incident by April 29.
He has Som Nath’s son, Subhash Chander, at Janta Nagar here on Sunday evening. “My father would have been alive, hand the police and the bank officials acted in time,” Subhash Chander told Verka, and made him aware of the memorandums his father had sent to the state government and local authorities to warn them that he would end his life if not paid his pension.
“On April 18, my father put up a banner outside the Punjab National Bank branch in Dhilwan (Kapurthala) that he was going to burn himself. After coming out of the bank, he poured kerosene oil on self and carried out his threat. The police station was 100 feet from the spot, but no cop came to his rescue,” Subhash Chander told the SC panel vice-chairman.
“The bank has fire extinguishers, yet its officials did nothing to douse the flames and watched him die. Some locals tried to help but the police officers who arrived were more worried about hiding my father’s banner,” he said. At the civil hospital in Kapurthala, Som Nath received no treatment for at least two-hours-and-a-half. His family moved him to Christian Medical College and Hospital in Ludhiana, where he died.
Subhash Chander told Verka that he wanted to organise his father’s funeral at his ancestral village but the police held on to the body for long. “My father, who was president of the rickshaw-pullers’ association, always fought for people’s rights. After he died, no one from government even said two words of mourning,” said the aggrieved son.