Govt doles out bonds but riot victims can't cash in

Indian Express, June 23, 2002

Shefali Nautiyal

Ahmedabad, June 23: AS part of its compensation package for the riot-hit, the State Government recently announced that it will give Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) bonds worth Rs 60,000 each which will mature in five years. But chances are that they may never mature. Just like the bonds hundreds of 1990 and 1992 riot victims received.

A decade later, the bonds they got are yet to be encashed. Ten years down the line, the bonds have been renewed twice and all the victims have got is the paltry interest.

Take the case of 70-year-old Ibrahim Suleman Maniyar. It's been 10 years now that he has been receiving a sum of Rs 1,750 every three months - the interest on bonds he got as compensation after his wife died in the 1992 riots. The bonds were to mature in 1995 but till date, the rickshaw driver only gets the interest. What's worse is that Suleman was made to sign a form, renewing the bond for another 10 years. "I'll be dead by then," he says.

Suleman's tale is a sad one. His wife died in police firing and he was paid the compensation. "The Minister gave us the bonds and said we would get the money in three years. When I went back, the bada saheb told me that I'll get interest for the next five years and after that the bond will mature. Five years later, I was told that the money will be given after 10 years," Suleman says. This time too, two of his shops were looted and burnt and despite the survey being conducted, he is yet to get any compensation.

There are many like him. According to a rough estimate, over 1,500 victims of the 1992 riots across the State got Narmada bonds, each worth Rs 1.4 lakh, as death compensation and Rs 60,000 in cash. But instead of handing the money when the bonds matured - in 1995 - the Government started renewing bonds and continued paying victims' the interest. At present, each bond will amount to approximately Rs 4.2 lakh.

Shameem Mansoori's husband died in police firing during the 1990 riots. Thw woman received a bond worth Rs 35,000. Twelve years later, she gets a meagre Rs 300 per month - once again, the Government is only paying the interest. Today, Shameem makes ends meet by sewing; her four sons work as labourers. "My husband died in police firing and they gave me Rs 40,000 cash and bonds worth Rs 35,000. Till date, I get only the interest," she says. Even getting that is not easy and entails several rounds. "Last time when I went I asked if I would get the entire amount and the clerk at the Collectorate said I may not," she says.

Former director of Minorities Grievances Committee Liyaquat Dodhia has been collecting information about such victims since few years. "In 1996-97, over 30 people approached me in Surat with the bonds. We fought and got them the total amount. It was then that I realised there must be such people too," says Dodhia, who has managed to collect eight persons from Godhra, 88 from Surat and was in the city on Sunday to meet 1992 riot victims. "Most of them have suffered losses this time too and the money means a lot to them," he says.

Kamoornisa Abdul Patel, whose husband died in police firing in 1990, gets only Rs 300. "I stitch buttons on readymade shirts. My children are very small," she says. "Two years back, we confronted the official and asked if we could get the entire amount but they just said that getting a monthly amount was better. We thought of hiring a lawyer but he was also asking for Rs 2,000. After that, we stopped trying," she says.

The official version

REVENUE and Relief Secretary M Murmo says whether to encash the bond or renew it was up to the person. "It is entirely their choice. In these cases, they must have decided to renew the bonds," he says, adding, "The Government can't stop them from encashing the bonds. They can do so legally." However, former director of Minorities Grievances Committee Liyaquat Dodhia says, "The Government is just trying to save its neck. The bond holders are poor and who wouldn't want to get the amount. These people are illiterate and are made to sign blank sheets which later become renewal application. Otherwise, are these people fools not to get their bonds encashed?"