Empowering Lokpal to oversee distribution of ex gratia to kin of Pulwama victims would be edifying for country

An ideal starting ground for our first Lokpal to undertake would be to oversee the ex gratia to the families of the Central Reserve Police Force personnel killed in the Pulwama terror attack. As ‘an anti-corruption authority or body of ombudsmen who represents the public interest in the Republic of India’ the watchful eye of Pinaki Chandra Ghose would be ideal to monitor things.

 Empowering Lokpal to oversee distribution of ex gratia to kin of Pulwama victims would be edifying for country

Justice PC Ghose takes oath as the first Lokpal of India. ANI

It is fair to state that one of the areas where we seem to lack transparency is in charity or organisation of donations. Do they really go where they are supposed to? How does one know the pledges have been kept? With election fever and the IPL bookending the public interest, these days it is easy to let other equations slide onto the back burner. Among them: What did the kin of the CRPF soldiers killed in the Pulwama attack get by way of ex gratia payments and how are the multiple promises being kept, if they are kept at all? That it is still an issue of interest and has traction is edifying but not enough.

Several states announced large sums of money, jobs and the Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Associations of India even agreed to give the kin of the CRPF killed readymade homes. There never was any clarity on what was being given to the four who died in the post explosion mop up operations, which are in themselves extremely dangerous, and as much active duty casualties nor the six killed in a chopper crash in the same region. Nor, for that matter, the soldier killed in firing last week in Rajouri.

Even if emotion generated a certain unevenness in the way compensation was measured, there seems to be no avenue for ascertaining whether the money reached these families. We simply assume it has. In early March, the CRPF issued a statement that each family would get over Rs 1 crore as financial aid. So far, no mention has been made of which member of the family receives this money. Such a large sum can also rip apart the fragile fabric of a working class family and create chaos along with the grief of the loss. Between widows and in-laws and the arrival of sundry ‘new’ relatives (mamas, chachas and bhaiyas), unless properly dispensed and legally binding this sort of cash can wreak havoc on families.

In February, the National Stock Exchange promised a day’s salary with all good intent. Has that been given or how far up the road is the progress? Bharti Foundation announced free education for the children of the Pulwama soldiers, although there is no list of how many children this adds up to or what classes they are in. Even former cricketer Virender Sehwag was ready to do the same.

State governments were not far behind and huge sums were also declared by various chief ministers for families of the deceased hailing from their states. Has the paperwork started or the money dispensed? Several members of the public also contributed to the Syndicate Bank trust set up for this purpose. In the days of old, newspapers would carry the names and contributions in a sea of print. That warnings to not follow false links imitating the bank indicates that corruption could supersede sanctity.

The National Defence Fund, the Bharat Veer Fund, the Army Wives Welfare Fund and the Army Central Welfare Fund are all legitimate and doing the country great service. So, it is not a question of casting aspersions since there are no aspersions to cast. It is just a question of propriety and ensuring that these ad hoc contributions go where they are supposed to and are audited and made public. All too often the way to hell is paved with good intentions and one can only hope this is not the case in this instance.

An honest appraisal of the condition of the families by the CRPF, the home and defence ministries would be salutary and edifying for the whole country. Under the Lokpal, it would be gratifying to see the largesse ameliorate the grief of the loss and not aggravate it. Also, after Pulwama, there must be a common ground of minimum compensation on reworked terms for the kin for every soldier killed in action or on duty. We cannot have a one-off and then change the rules.

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Updated Date: Mar 26, 2019 16:14:33 IST

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