Seventeen years after an undergraduate student in Patna died of burn injuries after he set himself on fire inside the Patna High Court campus over non-payment of his father’s salary for nine years, his family is still running from pillar to post for the release of dues amounting to Rs 25 lakh.
Chandan Bhattacharya (22), who was unable to get admission in Part II of his undergraduate course after failing to pay the course fee, set himself on fire in the HC campus on August 15, 2002. Bihar State Agro Industries Development Corporation, which is now defunct, had not paid the salary of his father — Parijat Bhattacharya — due since February 1993. Chandan suffered 90 per cent burn injuries and succumbed four days later at the Patna Medical College and Hospital. Parijat died of cancer in 2005.
Following a series of reports by The Indian Express, senior advocate Kapila Hingorani had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court, which had ordered in February 2003 that interim payments would have to be made to about 35,000 employees from Bihar and Jharkhand working in various corporations that had not paid their employees.
In 2017, Hingorani’s daughter, Priya Hingorani, also an advocate, had filed a fresh application in the Supreme Court demanding a final settlement of salary dues for 753 employees of the Bihar agriculture corporation. In May 2018, the court had ordered the Bihar government to make a full payment to these employees. On December 11, 2019, the state government then allocated Rs 126 crore to the Agriculture Department to pay the salaries.
Chandan’s younger brother Amar, a postgraduate student who has been pursuing the matter, told The Indian Express: “In all these years, I have been going from one office to another. My brother killed himself because of my father’s helplessness to support his studies. I have met the Chief Minister, the deputy Chief Minister and the Agriculture Minister in the past years… Now that the allotment has finally been made, my father’s dues are not being cleared.”
Amar said the delay and the case had taken a toll on the family. “My sister Pratima, now 40, could not get married because of financial constraints and health problems. She hasn’t got a job on compassionate grounds. The worst part of our struggle is our experience of total apathy and insensitivity of the system. I wonder what it takes to get back the hard-earned salary due to my father, who too, died because of inadequate treatment,” said Amar, who works as a computer operator.
Agriculture department secretary N Saravana Kumar, however, said: “I am aware of the Chandan Bhattacharya case. The matter has been cleared from my end.”
Agriculture department special secretary Ravindra Nath Rai, who has been dealing with the matter, told The Indian Express: “Chandan’s case was highlighted. We are trying to give equal treatment to all 753 employees whose payment is due. We are verifying the payment figures of each employee. The nod to the final payment has to be cleared by the Cabinet. Finally, the managing director of the dissolved corporation would start making payments, which should start by mid-February.”
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