After the Gujarat High Court directed the state government to pay Jashiben Bambhaniya Rs 5 lakh as compensation for the loss of life of her husband aboard MV Kuber trawler that was hijacked by terrorists during the 26/11 attacks, survivors of other dead crew have also demanded the same.
Damyanti Tandel, whose husband Balwant was on the trawler, told The Indian Express, “We worked hard to get the documents, including the death certificate and other important papers, and submitted them at various government departments for compensation in the past 11 years, but we feel that government is partial in providing compensation. There is nobody to listen to us as we live in Navsari, which is very far from Ahmedabad and our voices don’t reach the government”.
A week ago, the family members of three of the sailors who were killed, approached Ahmedabad lawyer Anand Yagnik and requested him to take up their case. Including Balwant, the crew had three persons from Vansi and Borisi Machhiwad villages in Navsari, the other two being Mukesh Rathod and Natu Rathod.
In November 2009, the Gujarat government paid a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to all the five surviving families, including that of Amarsinh Solanki, the captain of the trawler whose decapitated head was found on the boat.
Acting on Gujarat High Court’s order, the state government had on November 8, given compensation amount of Rs 5 lakh to Jashiben, the widow of Rameshbhai Bambhania, who lives in Junagadh.
Advocate Yagnik told The Indian Express, “In 2009, the state government gave Rs 50,000 to all the families of each crew of Kuber boat from the Chief Minister’s relief fund. We talked to the three families of Navsari who were also killed by Kasab and we have taken their statements and collected all the necessary documents from them. We have prepared a petition demanding a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of three deceased fishermen from state government. We will file the petition next week.”
Damyanti has two daughters — Jigisha (25), Bhagyashri (24) — and a son Umesh (26). She took a loan from relatives and friends to get Jigisha married in 2017 while Bhagyashri helps her mother stitch sequins on sarees. Two months ago Umesh went to Oman for work.
Damyanti said, “I have taken loan from relatives and friends in our village to send my son to the Gulf, and also for the marriage of my daughter. There is no other source of income in our village as majority of them go for fishing in deep sea. After his father’s death, my son decided not to take up fishing.” Umesh studied till Class 10 and was doing petty jobs.
She argues that when Ajmal Kasab, the Lashkar terrorist who was held for the Mumbai attacks, told the investigators that they had killed the other sailors and thrown their bodies into the sea, why was the Gujarat government not considering the statement to pay compensation. She adds how the owner of Kuber had also given a list of people sailing on his boat that fateful day in 2008.
“I have been knocking the doors of government offices, including that of Navsari District Collector, and even all the possible places to get the compensation amount. Nobody is listening to us, and nobody is giving us support,” says Damyanti.
Dharmishta, widow of Natu Rathod of Vansi village in Navsari, has two children — Nitin (15), and Ashmita(12). She works as a domestic help in two houses in the village and earns Rs 75 per day. Both of her children are studying in a government school in the village.
Dharmishta, “When he (Natu) left home, my daughter was a baby and my son was five years old. Our relatives helped for sometime but later I had to survive on my own. It is almost 11 years and we are still struggling for our livelihood. There is no scope of work in our village and majority of the people go for fishing in a trawler from Porbander. If we get some compensation, I will open a small shop selling grocery items in the village and and provide better education to my children.”
She says that her husband was not into fishing and he went for the first time on Kuber with Mukesh and Balwant.
“Natu was earlier working as helper in a construction site in Navsari under contractor Sumanbhai Patel. Sumanbhai and his family had migrated abroad and my husband was jobless. He tried at different sites but could not get a job. With no work, Natu agreed to accompany Mukesh and Balwant for fishing into the deep sea, so that he could earn some money,” says Dharmishta.
Mukesh Rathod’s 85-year-old grandmother, Laxmiben, is now alone. She was the one who brought up her daughter Ramila’s son, Mukesh, at her house in Vansi. “My daughter Ramila got married to a youth in another village and they had Mukesh. Her husband used to come home drunk, and beat her and son. She told me to take Mukesh from her house and I raised him,” says Laxmiben who used to earn a living as an agricultural labourer.
After the death of her husband, Ramila married a second time. Mukesh used to work as labourer on fishing boats in Porbandar. “I have no one now, neighbours give me food and take care of me,” says Laxmiben.