In response to Ahmedabad-based human rights NGO, Centre for Social Justice’s (CSJ’s) petition in the Supreme Court, the Government of India recently allowed age relaxation to children and dependents of the victims of 2002 Gujarat riots in jobs of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, it published two separate advertisements, in which the Union home ministry said that the upper age limit up to five years may be relaxed for children and dependents of victims in the communal riots of 2002 in Gujarat. A counterview.org report:
According the decision, which is corollary to the recommendations worked out by the CSJ, the IB is seeking applications to fill up 514 posts of security assistant (executive), general central service, group-c (non-gazetted/non-ministerial) to be posted across the country. As for the CSIF, it is seeking to fill up 123 posts of constables (bandsman-cum-general duty).
“The age limit is relaxable for ex-servicemen as well as for candidates who were domiciled in Jammu & Kashmir from January 1, 1980 to December 31, 1989 and children and dependents of victims of communal riots of 2002 in Gujarat as per government instructions in this regard issued from time to time,” the IB advertisement said. The CISF advertisement added, “Upper age limit up to five years may be relaxed to the children and dependents of victims killed in the 1984 riots and communal riots of 2002 in Gujarat”.
The advertisements clarified that children, including the adopted son and daughter and dependent family members like spouse or children, besides brother or sister in case of unmarried victim who were totally dependent on that victim at the time of his getting killed in the riots, are all eligible. The Government of India decision to allow compassionate appointments has come at a time when the state government took the view that it was not possible to provide such appointments to the family members of the riot-affected persons.
Of course, the CSJ took the Supreme Court that it may not possible to make an observation with regard to this, as “the question of grant of compassionate appointment is a policy decision, which is generally taken de hors normal procedure of appointment by issuing advertisement, giving opportunity to others”. Even then, it did not fail to underline, “In certain cases, it has been held to be in consonance with Articles 14 (equality before law ) and 16 (equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) of the Constitution of India.”
The CSJ insisted that the Government of India, even as providing other types of compensations, should approve the following:
- preference to children/ family members of the deceased victim in recruitment by giving necessary age relaxations,
- launching a special recruitment drive to accommodate eligible members from riot affected families,
- allowing persons who had lost their jobs to rejoin by treating the period of absence as “dies-non”, and
- giving necessary pension benefits by relaxing the normal rules to the extent possible to those who had to leave their jobs due to riots and have already crossed the age of superannuation.
Through an affidavit, Gunvant C Vaghela, director, relief and deputy secretary, the Gujarat government, in fact, canceled the scheme of compassionate appointment to the dependent families of those class III and Class IV employees who died while in service, and in lieu of this, a scheme for payment of lump-sum financial assistance to such families was introduced (GR-Dated 5/7/11). “This scheme does not directly address the specific category of riots victims irrespective of the fact that they have their kin working in government sector or not. The state is supposed to formulate a separate scheme”, CSJ underscored.
The CSJ argued, there was “inconsistency in providing the compensation and adequate rehabilitation to the affected families has led to discontent and loss of faith in the government.” It added, “The allocation of the compensation needs a more nuanced understanding so that there are no sections of the affected community who are left out. The government has considered only a narrow section of the affected community for compensation.” The CSJ challenged the “narrow approach” of the government, saying that “some of the ground realities as the petitioner should be closely observed.”
Other issues it took up along with paying compensation on compassionate ground included:
- As per the government order only those people have been compensated who were compensated in 2002; however there is still a huge chunk of people who have suffered major losses but have not yet received any compensation for the losses they suffered. The government could give a window to such affected people who could on affidavit claim their losses. The window should be given for a stipulated time.
- In order to verify these losses constitute a committee under the ombudsman, who could verify the claims through a due process of inspection and give clearance to the claims.
- In 2002, in lieu of the compensation amount there were also loans offered to people on low interest rates. There are people who have taken the loans and also paid the interest on it. But when the ex-gratia amount was announced again the people who had taken the loans were not benefited.
- Several families living in rented houses who were compensated, were not able to avail the due compensation as all the house documents were in the name of the land lord, this is one category which was not considered.
- The package has not paid any heed to the people who have had permanent disability due to injury during the riots.
- Children who were orphaned because of the riots and now are of age and should receive employment as still survival for the victims is a daily struggle (age group of 18-20).
- A huge mass of the affected persons running small business on carts and on roads which were uninsured, in the absence of any proof of the business that amount was left unpaid to the people.
- Widows and old age persons a pension, at a uniform rate of Rs 2500 per month for the whole life from a prospective date. Wives of those who have suffered disability of 70% or more and those who are missing since 2002 may also be provided pension at the same rate.
‘Compensate on par with Sikh riot victims’
Considered an important victory for the riot victims because of the CSJ’s intervention, the CSJ petition is part of the compensation originally demanded at par with the victims of the 1984 Sikh riots to the kin of 1,169 people who lost their lives in the riots subsequent to the train carnage on February 27, 2002, including 59 persons died in the burning of the train. As many as 2,548 persons were grievously injured during the riots, and many lost their properties and suffered financial loss due to damage/loss to residential, commercial and industrial properties.
It was also argued that “the Sikh riot survivors both who migrated to Punjab and the Sikhs who suffered violence living in their own state were granted rehabilitation grant of Rs 2 lakh. In Gujarat there are 4,458 families who have been living away from their native land in 83 relief colonies across Gujarat who are not just affected by the violence but have not yet been allowed to return to their homes. Most of them are living in severe conditions in these colonies that are build by private funding.”
It was further pointed out, “The Government of Gujarat has not paid any heed to the development of these persons. Their property that has been lost in their native land has not been recovered, no housing scheme and/or supported in repairing/rebuilding of the damaged houses has been granted. The loss of livelihood due to the shift hence leading to a lower standard, change of occupation, also drop in income.”
CSJ’s first major success was in February 2008 when the the Government of India announced that the riot victims of Gujarat would be given compensation at par with that awarded to the victims of anti-Sikh riots in 1984. Accordingly, a package was released which included:
- Rs. 3.5 lakh to the kith and kin of 1,169 riots victims in addition to Rs 1.5 lakh, amount paid by the state government;
- a total of 1.25 lakh minus the amount already paid was announced to be paid to 2,548 people injured in the riots;
- and a total package of money equivalent to 10 times the compensation paid by the state after riots minus the amount already paid for financial loss due to damage or loss to properties.
The district collector was made the main agency for the identification and disbursement of the compensation to the victims and victims’ families. The entire process of distribution of this special package was to be completed before October 2008, and the report of the same was to be sent to the state government. The state government was obliged to verify the claims, distribute compensation and issue utilization certificate to the Central Government within 45 days i.e. by December 15, 2008.
It was given to understand that identification of the victims of the 2002 riots was difficult exercise. After 2002 riots, most of the riot victims left their place of residence and presently residing in the displacement colonies in different part of Gujarat. So far as this compensation scheme was concerned, the government identified 62 such displacement colonies, where most of the victims were living. In addition to victims living in such displacement colonies, there were many who were living in different parts of the state.
But irregularity in the payment of compensation was observed. So far as the payment of compensation to the kith and kin of the persons dead during the riots 2002 was concerned, it was implemented in its entirety. But with regard to the compensation to the persons injured there were a number of such cases where no compensation was awarded. Representations were also made to the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) and the district collectors for providing compensation in light of the newly announced package.
Then, there were thousands of riot victims who suffered loss due to damage or loss to the residential, commercial and industrial property. No process of disbursement of compensation to this category of riot victims was started and the government did paid a single rupee to any of such victims in pursuance of this newly announced compensation package. Around 1,500 such victims have applied for payment of their due compensation to the district magistrates of Ahmedabad, Sabarkatha, Mehasana, Kheda, Dahod, Vadodara, Panchmahal, Narmada, Anand and Gandhinagar. Several representations were also made to the district collectors and GSDMA to award compensation to such victims.
In 2002 riots, it was not just Muslims who suffered loss in terms of life, limb and property. There was also a good number of Hindu population who also had suffered loss of life, limbs and property. The government did not awarded any compensation in line with the announced compensation package to such victims who suffered loss due to damage to their residential, commercial and industrial property.
This made the CSJ to ask the apex court to issue time bound direction to the state government to disburse compensation to all persons falling under the categories as per the package, and to issue time bound direction to the Government of India to release funds for the disbursement of compensation towards property loss.
The disbursement of the funds by the state government encountered departmental problems. The disbursement of compensation for injury and death was satisfactorily done. But disbursement of fund for households and commercial property encountered some problems. Repeated mention in the court about these pitfalls helped in rectifying these issues but they still persist. The entire amount of compensation was not paid to the victim, because of non availability of addresses. People who approached in person had to make several trips to offices.
When the case was still on in the Supreme Court, the CSJ invited applications from victims/ survivors who had not received any compensation for their losses. About 2000 applications from various districts claiming that they had not received any compensation were received. The CSJ engaged itself in compiling these applications, to make a representation for people who have not received any compensation at all.