Riot relief scam: Gujarat HC verdict today

The agony continues for survivors of the 2002 riots in Panderwada,whose houses were razed by killer mobs.

Written by Anupam Chakravartty | Panderwada | Published: July 19, 2010 1:59:49 am

The agony continues for survivors of the 2002 riots in Panderwada,whose houses were razed by killer mobs. Even the much-delayed compensation for them was systematically pilfered and they are left pinning their hopes on the judiciary now.

A taluka of 60-odd villages,Panderwala now awaits the Gujarat High Court’s verdict — expected on Monday — on five taluka development officials who allegedly siphoned off funds from riot rehabilitation packages meant for the victims.

Earlier,the High Court had passed orders in favour of a petition filed by one Dr J B Panesuria,an Ayurvedic practitioner who is also an observer of the All India Anti Corruption and Human Rights Watch.

Based on the petition,the court had ordered an inquiry.

In 2005,Panesuria filed an application under the Right to Information Act with the Taluka Development Office and Postal Department after suspecting a scam in the distribution of the relief funds. The family of one of his associates,Shamshuddin Ahmed Saiyed,who passed away in 1989,had suffered during the riots. The family home and a tea stall set up by his wife were burnt down by a mob on February 26,2002. Although,Shamshuddin’s son Mayuddin Ahmed received Rs 1.5 lakh as compensation he was aghast when people who were left untouched by the mobs started getting cheques.

“Cheques came for 12-year-old,13 year-old boys. Houses which were never touched by anyone,or people with shops,got seven cheques issued in the names of their sons. Victims who never lived in Panderwada were getting funds for building houses,” says Mayuddin.

The reply to the RTI and even the inquiry report filed by the Deputy District Collector (Mid Day Meal Scheme),J M Vyas,confirmed the points raised by Panesuria’s petition and Mayuddin’s doubts.

However,while Panesuria estimates the scam to extend beyond Rs 6 crore,Panchmahal District Administration’s inquiry shows only Rs 1.38 crore. “It was a failure of the administration to assess the damage caused during the riots. We have initiated action against the accused officers,” says Vyas.

Panesuria counters the claim by adding a list of 38 ‘bogus’ people from the Hindu community who claimed that they were victims,whose names were added to the PIL via a rejoinder application filed in Gujarat High Court,while also demanding a higher level inquiry into the scam.

“The biases are naturally going to be there while conducting the investigations as not one but five consecutive serving Taluka Development Officials since 2002 are responsible for this. Starting from the engineers who were supposed to assess the damage to each taluka development official who served from 2002 to 2009,to talatis and sarpanch in Khanpur Taluka Development Office have asked for money,be it real or fake victims to get their names added to damage assessment lists. They all claim to be the victims to get the benefits of a relief fund,” adds Panesuria.

Vyas,however,says that signatures of the officials were missing from damage assessment report by done by the lower level officials such as Talati and Sarpanch. “The officials,in question,have not signed the documents pertaining to the damage assessment,” adds Vyas.

Also,while 346 cases of damage to life and property were identified by Khanpur Taluka Office,Panesuria claims that only 153 cases are real. “The numbers have been rigged in order to get more riot relief so that the money could be distributed to anyone who could cough up a bribe,” says Panasuria.

Perhaps,the highest bidder in this game of cheating and faking misery,is Ghulam Kharadi,who has been accused of getting away with 27 cheques amounting Rs 92.78 lakh. Kharadi is wanted by the police after an FIR was filed against him and five Taluka Development Officials on July 10.

After the FIR was filed at the Bakor Police Station,an uneasy calm has descended over the town. “I was being threatened by the people who received bogus cheques in their names. Some of them are my relatives too. Their houses were never touched,while I have not got any compensation for my house which was burnt down,” says 24-year-old Hussain Habib Shaikh. Hussain’s grandmother,father and brother were killed during the 2002 riots.

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