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Rs 750 for burnt restaurant, Rs 8,500 for store: Delhi Assembly panel flags gaps in riot relief

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After his small restaurant in Gokulpuri was vandalised and looted during the Northeast Delhi riots, Usman Ali sought  Rs 3 lakh in damages from the state government. He was paid Rs 750.

Days into her pregnancy, on February 25, Gulzeb Parveen’s husband Moshin Ali was killed. His charred body was found metres from the Khajuri Khas police station. On Tuesday, she gave birth to a baby girl, who is in the ICU at a Hapur hospital. “The compensation was withheld because we didn’t have Moshin’s death certificate… and that was delayed because of the lockdown. Now, we have submitted all the documents, but we still haven’t got any compensation,” Shahnawaz, Mohsin’s elder brother, said.

Over six months after the riots, the Delhi government faces charges of delays, mismatches and false rejections over its compensation disbursal to victims and their families.

On Wednesday, a Delhi Assembly panel on welfare of minorities asked the state revenue department to review at least 30 cases of mismatch between claims and amount sanctioned, and 50 cases of rejections.

So far, out of 3,200 claims, over 900 have been rejected. The government has cleared 1,526 claims and disbursed compensation amounting to around Rs 19 crore. However, gaps in several cases between compensation claimed and the amount approved prompted the panel to take up the matter, sources said.

“CM aur deputy CM ke directions ke bavjood koi kaam hua hi nahi... (work on compensation did not get done despite directions from the CM and Deputy CM),” Haji Yunus, AAP’s Mustafabad MLA and a member of the panel, told top officials of the district and revenue department during the meeting of the panel Wednesday.

A ground check by The Indian Express revealed some of these alleged discrepancies. Take, for example, the case of Usman Ali, whose eatery in Gokulpuri is on rented space. “When I visited the SDM office, I was told the compensation had been transferred to my account. But my bank statement showed that I had been given Rs 750,” he said.

Pictures taken in the aftermath of the violence on February 24 show Ali’s restaurant stripped bare of furniture, ovens and other items, and the floor strewn with pieces of wood, plastic and paper. “Business is down to 40%. I have not even been able to pay rent to the landlord,” said Ali, who stays with his wife, their two children, and his mother.

Around 5 km away is Gamri village, where Zarar Ali runs a poultry shop. The area witnessed violence through the day on February 25. In a complaint to New Usmanpur police station, Zarar, who pays a monthly rent of Rs 6,000 for the shop, listed his losses: two gates made of aluminium, one aluminium board, geyser, a bug killer machine, a gas cylinder, a steel sink, a wash basin, two weighing scales, 40 chickens, Rs 45,000 in cash and another Rs 10,000 in a child’s gullak. For all the damage, the shop owner has been paid Rs 8,500 by the government, records show.

Asif Ali, who runs a restaurant adjoining Zarar’s poultry shop, said rioters looted valuables of over Rs 3 lakh before setting the eatery on fire. “The mob even torched my new Scooty worth Rs 75,000. Yet, all that the government paid me was Rs 70,000. I got nothing for the Scooty as I could not produce its remains. It lies buried under heaps of scrap vehicles at Bhajanpura police station,” he said.

Among the cases taken up by the panel was that of one Vinod Joshi of Yamuna Vihar subdivision, who had sought Rs 30,000 for damage to his commercial property and who, according to the list drawn up by the district administration, had received Rs 574 as relief. However, when contacted on the number against his name in the government list, Joshi said he had received the full compensation amount.

The government had promised up to Rs 5 lakh as compensation in case of damage to uninsured commercial units, Rs 1 lakh in cases of “complete loot” of such units and Rs 50,000 in case of partial loot.

However, during the meeting, the revenue department officials told the panel that the compensation policy “needed more clarity, the absence of which is leading to a lot of confusion”.

“On the ground, a person claiming complete loot of say Rs 3 lakh will get Rs 1 lakh. But if a person says his shop was partially looted of Rs 6 lakh, he will only get Rs 50,000. The policy has been drafted in such a manner,” a senior official told the panel.

When the panel asked officials if they had tried to review rejected cases, they said it cannot be done in the absence of any government direction.

“If all the cases are reopened for review, we will effectively be opening a Pandora’s box. That is simply not practical. The panel should fix the criteria and some cases can be reviewed accordingly. After all, the claims were reviewed by teams of SDMs and PWD officials. The entire exercise cannot be doubted,” said a senior revenue department official.

Indian express

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