Border victims deprived of due compensation

Prof.  V. S. Verma
Jammu and Kashmir is a border state and it has been in a state of war since the last seventy years since independence. India shares 3,323 km of terrestrial border with Pakistan, which includes the Line of Control in J&K, besides the International Border of which one third i.e. 1,225 km runs through J&K alone. The extensive coverage of the borders within the state holds importance from the fact that of the 22 total districts of J&K, border runs through Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu Division, Leh and Kargil in Ladakh and Budgam, Baramulla and Kupwara in Kashmir Division. Jammu region has been harsh fatalistic State witnessing the most atrocious fatalities, migration and instability on its borders since 1947. Amongst India’s border cruelties, which has been experienced by inhabitants of this particular region since bifurcation of India and Pakistan, and continues to experience even today, the worst situation is a legitimate question raised by its inhabitants. Even after the ceasefire agreements between the two countries, there have only been short periods of peace and the borders have remained extremely vulnerable. The volatile Indo-Pak relations mean that the people of the border villages live on tenterhooks and there has never been safety of life and livelihood security even during peace times. In fact, the term peace time is misleading and does injustice to the villages on the line of fire. The social and psychological impact of the ongoing proxy war  being waged by Pakistan has impacted many social implications.
The border people are destined to live in the shadow of uncertainty and fear. The sense of neglect is deep-seated in the villages around the border due to the lack of sincere and earnest attention of the Government. The case study of two brothers of border village Sai Khurd Burey Jal, Tehsil R. S. Pura, District Jammu is quite disheartening and speaks a good deal about the woes of victims of Pak shelling and reveals much about the plight of such victims as well as the callous attitude of State administration towards their welfare. It was the fateful day of 28 August, 2015 when the unprovoked heavy shelling by Pakistan Rangers killed three civilians and left seventeen others injured on the international border in R. S. Pura and Arnia in Jammu. In the shocking event, heaven fell on a family when a mortar shell burst at their home in which two brothers, Subhash Chander (38) and Bhola Ram (51) both sons of Karam Chand, residents of village Sei Khurd in R. S. Pura were badly injured in the shelling, severely wounding their legs, while the wives of both the brothers were killed and other family members were injured. One leg of Subash Chander was badly damaged and had to be amputated despite spending about one lakh rupees on treatment. On the other hand, Bhola Ram who got his left leg badly wounded in the shelling on the same day also spent six lakh rupees raised from donations from his neighbours, selling his own valuables, besides borrowing from relatives and friends, but he was not able to stand upon his leg and rendered crippled for the rest of his life. Both the breadwinners of their families have been incapacitated with more than 60 percent grievous injuries The State Government washed off its hand by paying only a paltry sum of one Lakh rupees each for both deceased ladies and 5000 rupees to the injured. The ill-fated family is now resourceless and has become virtually beggars becoming dependent on fellow villagers for food and other necessities. Besides, they have been incapacitated to perform farming operations on their farming land for the whole life and attend to daily pursuits as they have lost their vital limbs. Such incidents have become routine with unprovoked shelling by Pak rangers throughout the Actual Line of Control and international border. But the unfortunate victims who get killed or wounded do not get due compensation from the government despite the existing provisions thereof.
Approximately 770 km of the Line of Control and approximately 220 km of International Border have been a witness to frequent ceasefire violation and the influx of terrorists since 1990. Viklang Chhatra Trust, an NGO working for the welfare of handicapped, destitute and elderly people has taken up the matter for getting compensation to the aggrieved families as per the “Central scheme for assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremists (LWE), Cross Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory”. It is pertinent to mention that during the Prime Minister’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir on October 23, 2014, the issue of financial assistance to the people killed in cross-border firing was raised.
The Union Cabinet in a meeting held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 24, 2016 gave approval to the enhancement of compensation to the civilian victims under the scheme titled “Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory” from 3 lakh to 5 lakh rupees. As per the Scheme, “Now onwards, any civilian who dies anywhere in the country due to terror attacks, Left Wing Extremist violence, firing from across the border, shelling or IED explosion will be given 5 lakh rupees as compensation uniformly. The amount will be given to the next of kin of the victims”, reads the decision of the Union Government. It was specifically mentioned in the decision that 5 lakh rupees will also be given to those who receive 50 per cent or more disability or incapacitation due to the same reasons and the compensation amount will be given subject to the condition that no employment has been provided to any of the family members of the victims by State or Central Government. Before this decision by the Union Government, the next of kin of persons killed or civilians who suffered permanent incapacitation were getting 3 lakh rupees of  compensation as per the provisions of the “Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist, Communal and Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts”, which was launched in 2008.
However, despite the lapse of nearly two years, the State Government has yet not come forward to implement this scheme; neither formal instruction has been issued to Deputy Commissioners regarding the identification of such victims for compensation as per the provisions of the Central Scheme. Will this scheme be of any help to the families of Bhola Ram, Subhash Chander and many other victims of cross border shelling is a big question? Will the victims of border shelling with more than 50 percent injury or next of kin of the diseased as a consequence of border shelling get five lakh rupees as compensation?
It is a matter of great despondence that the State Government has not implemented the scheme for compensation to the unfortunate victims of border shelling notwithstanding the fact that the whole expenditure has to be borne by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Let good sense prevail among those at the helm of affairs for implementing the Central scheme for compensating the border victims and their families.
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