In October 2013, Jagir Singh (61) of Fatehpur village lost 14 members of his family, including his wife, in an accident. The widely-reported incident caught the attention of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
“The CM offered his condolences and also announced a compensation package for the next of kin of the deceased and the injured,” said Jagir Singh. “We got his condolences but not the compensation.”
Harijit Singh, Jagir’s son who survived the accident, had hospital bills running up to Rs 2.8 lakh. His nine-year-old daughter, Jashanpreet, is mentally as well as physically challenged. With Harijit not able to move around like he used to after the accident, the family survives on Jagir’s army pension of Rs 11,000 per month, a large portion of which goes into treatment. “I tried to leave Jashanpreet under the care of an orphanage,” said Jagir. “But she was not being well looked-after. After that I got her back and have been looking after her myself.” The family lives in a two-room house without any farmland to their name.
Twenty people lost their lives and a around a dozen people were injured in the road accident. The vehicle in which they were travelling was packed over capacity. While negotiating a steep turn on the Punjab-Himachal Pradesh border, the driver lost control and the vehicle plunged into an 80 feet deep gorge.
The victims were were, mostly, Dalits from two villages – Fatehpur and Bajaja – of Kapurthala district and were daily wagers. None of them have received the promised compensation – Rs 1 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 25,000 to each injured.
The Indian Express talked to a few people who lost loved ones in the accident, some lost their entire families to the tragedy.
Baba Singh said he lost his wife, two daughters, two grand-daughters and a grandson. Darbara Singh lost his son and grandson. Many of them suffered very serious injuries and spent much part of the last two years in treatment. All of them wanted to know where was their compensation?
The Indian Express approached government authorities for their take on the matter.
“I did look into the case when I took over,” said Jaskiran Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Kapurthala. “The then DC Hoshiarpur, where the accident took place, had sent the case to Chief Minister office at Chandigarh immediately after the accident.”
Political Advisor to the CM Tikshan Sud said that he will look into the matter and that the victims could meet him any time they wanted.