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Claim shame

Author: Swati Mathur and Nishika Patel
Publication: India Today
Date: November 30, 2009
URL: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/story?sId=71561&secid=30

Introduction: Their lives were changed forever by one terror attack. But now it is the pain of delayed compensation that prolongs the misery of Mumbai's terror victims.

On the night of November 26, 2008, fate dealt a cruel blow to Sunita Yadav. The 28-year-old not only lost her husband, but was also left to fend for her daughter Sarika, then only three months old. One year on, her sore eyes are still waiting for the promised railway job. Yadav is just one of the many widows who lost the breadwinner of the family. In other cases, heads of families sustained serious injuries, making them unfit for work.

In a terror attack that left 175 persons dead and 249 injured, victims were eligible to receive compensation from five different agencies-the Union Home Ministry, the Prime Minister's Relief Fund (PMRF), Central Railway, State governments and the Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT).

Of these, 614 claims are pending. The release of funds, especially from the Home Ministry and the PMRF, have been fraught with delays. Of the 48 dead that were from Mumbai alone, only 17 families have received home ministry compensation of Rs 3 lakh.

Thedistribution of disability certificates to nearly 80 victims is still pending. Idzes Kundan, Mumbai city collector and magistrate, responsible for disbursing cheques to the affected, says, "Nearly 71 cases have been sent to J.J. Hospital for a disability certificate." While 44 cases are still being assessed by the hospital, 27 certificates have been received at the collector's office. But there's no movement on the disbursal of Rs 3 lakh to these victims.

Similarly, of the 403 dead and injured that were eligible for compensation from the PMRF, only 118 cheques have actually been sent. There are many who are still pinning their hopes on an official assistance. Some examples:

Jagan Vitthal Bokade, an employee with Monopoly Express Cargo, was waiting to pick up a consignment at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) on the night of 26/11, when the attack took place. Before he could run for cover, he was hit by a bullet in the right hip, tearing through his left hip as well.

After spending over nine months in Bombay Hospital and five operations later, Bokade was finally discharged in September 2009. He is still not physically fit to join work and has been advised a hip replacement that will cost him Rs 3 lakh. To add to his woes, Bokade's financial worries are only beginning.

So far the family has been surviving on compensation but this will soon run out. Each month, the family's expenditure, including rent, food and nursing fees, adds up to Rs 10,000. However, with only Rs 50,000 of compensation money left in his bank account, Bokade hopes to make this last for as long as possible. His wife, Archana, 27, tending to Bokade and their four-year-old son Raj, has had to leave her job. Now in penury, even she is looking for a job.

When India Today approached the Railways, it was told that the RCT Mumbai has 99 cases of compensation of injured and dead of which 18 have been finalised. Once the order copy is sent to the Central Railway, they arrange for the cheques to be distributed. Four cheques of up to Rs 4 lakh have been issued so far, depending upon the seriousness of the case. The rest of the cases are still pending. Bokade applied for an additional claim from the RCT on May 26. He has been told that his case has not been opened yet.

One of the many hapless victims of the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, Vijayadevi Kushwaha was shot through her thigh at the CST. With an injured leg, Kushwaha limped her way across to St. George Medical College for first aid.

Apart from dealing with her own injuries, Kushwaha also had to cope with the trauma of the death of her younger brother in the terror attack. She was treated for bullet wounds at the J.J. Hospital for over six months, but a year after the incident, Kushwaha finds it difficult to walk or do any household chores. Her husband Ramkomal, an autorickshaw driver, divides times between Mumbai and his village in Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh where he has to take care of an ailing father.

With added medical expenses, Kushwaha can afford no more than a derisory existence in a shanty in suburban Mumbai. "The compensation amount is still pending in several cases because bank account details are being re-verified. We are doing all of this," says Mumbai City Collector and Magistrate Idzes Kundan. Vijayadevi has three school-going children. With the additional compensation from the government, the Kushwaha family hopes that life will be less of a struggle.

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