Among the many lives upended in Delhi in February were that of an expecting mother, days into her pregnancy, and a father barely making ends meet with a little help from his son.
In the riots that tore through Northeast Delhi between February 23 and 26, claiming at least 53 lives, Gulzeb Parveen (21) lost her husband Mohsin Ali (23), while Ikramuddin lost his younger son Aakib, who had just turned 19.
While public attention has shifted from riots to the pandemic, hundreds of families, including that of Mohsin and Aakib, are struggling to pick up the pieces, with compensation announced by the Delhi government eluding them.
Senior officials, quoting official records, told The Indian Express that till June-end, of around 3,200 claims for compensation, 1,700 were approved, around 700 remain pending, while over 900 were rejected. “So far, a little over Rs 20 crore has been disbursed as relief across categories,” said an official.
The perusal of records shows that under the category of deaths, in seven cases, compensation amounts of Rs 9 lakh each have not been released owing to absence of bank account details in one case, pending DNA reports in three cases, absence of FIR in one case and claimants not appearing in two cases.
“In our case, the compensation has not been released as we still await Mohsin’s death certificate. The crime branch direct us to Khajuri Khas police station. Police station directs us to North MCD, which directs us to Lok Nayak Hospital. Mohsin’s father is on the verge of collapsing. He went around government offices even on Monday. Initially, his DNA report was awaited, which came in April. But we are facing trouble even now. We also don’t have details on the progress made by the police in investigating his death. His wife is now expecting and has moved back to Hapur,” Imran Khan, his uncle, said.
Mohsin, who was an office bearer of the BJP’s minority cell in Hapur, was charred to death barely 400 metres from Khajuri Khas police station and 200 metres from a CRPF camp on February 25. A diesel generator set trader, Mohsin, the family claims, had gone to the area to attend to a call from a marriage hall owner.
“North MCD officials say the delay in his death certificate is due to the lockdown. Without that, the Delhi government is not releasing the relief amount of Rs 9 lakh,” Imran said.
Aakib, his father Ikramuddin said, had stepped out to buy clothes on February 24 after taking Rs 1,000. “We stay in a rented house in Bhagirathi Vihar. His sister was to get married in April, so he had gone out to buy clothes. Later, we came to know he had suffered head injuries near Bhajanpura petrol pump. On March 2, he passed away at GTB Hospital,” Ikramuddin said.
He used to sell bangles for a living, helped by his son: “First we lost Aakib. Then the lockdown effectively spelt doom for us. It is getting difficult to even pay rent.”
The SDM’s office has been expressing inability to transfer the relief amount to the family, citing absence of a post-mortem report. “The investigating officer says delay in furnishing the report is due to lockdown,” Ikramuddin said.
The refrain of delay due to lockdown also finds mention in official records available with the Northeast Delhi DM’s office. In case of injuries, till June 15, out of 359 claims, 105 were pending, of which as many as 63 had ‘lockdown’ written against them. In case of 30, MLC papers were absent and in case of 12, bank details were not available.
The segment on residential property damages shows that out of 1,286 claims, 152 were pending, of which 78 were due to lockdown. The majority of pending cases, 178 out of 355, had ‘lockdown’ marked against them, including in case of damage to commercial property.
In cases of property damages, around 900 out of 2,700 claims have been rejected citing reasons such as “no damage as per assessment”, “cases not falling in eligibility criteria”. Another reason that has been cited is the “relieving of sector SDMs”.
“This is another important factor. As many as 12 SDMs were appointed for the purpose of clearing and verifying relief claims across four sub-divisions of Yamuna Vihar, Shahdara, Seelampur and Karawal Nagar. They had to be shifted out later, which also hampered the process. Even now, the urgency appears to be missing, despite Deputy CM Manish Sisodia writing to the Northeast District Magistrate and other senior officials,” said a district official.
Sisodia had issued a note to the DM and the revenue secretary on July 10, observing that in a lot of cases, compensation was sanctioned but the amount wasn’t credited. The note directed the DM office to look into the forms that were filed but couldn’t be submitted at SDM office, forms that were submitted but haven’t been verified, and sought a timeline to provide compensation to those eligible as quickly as possible, with the government “mulling to stop accepting relief claims after July 25”.
A senior Northeast district official said the DM has written to the revenue headquarters, seeking more staff for expediting the task of verification of claims.
Five schools were also damaged in the area, out of which compensation has been cleared for three, while in the case of two, it remains pending “due to dispute”. In 61 cases, compensation could not be transferred due to “incorrect/dormant accounts”.
In some cases, victims had approached the court seeking release of compensation. In one such case of serious injury, the Delhi High Court had on July 8 ordered that the person be extended the amount of Rs 2 lakh within 10 days, saying “there is no reason for any delay in releasing compensation”.
The government had promised to extend compensation up to Rs 10 lakh in cases of deaths; Rs 5 lakh for permanent incapacitation; Rs 2 lakh for serious injuries; Rs 20,000 for minor injuries; Rs 5,000 for animal loss. In cases of complete damages to residential units, up to Rs 5 lakh is being extended for every affected floor; Rs 2.5 lakh in case of substantial damages; Rs 5 lakh in case of uninsured commercial units.
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