Widow, children wait for compensation from Lebanon

By Jatindra Dash


Support TwoCircles

Kendrapada (Orissa) : A woman here with three minor children is struggling to get compensation from the Lebanese government almost a year after her husband was killed in an Israeli air raid in that country.

"My husband Debesh Swain, 42, was working as a supervisor in the Maliben Best glass factory in Lebanon for eight years before his death," his widow Sakuntala, 36, told IANS.

"Even though he served the country as a sincere worker, the compensation amount has not reached us yet."

In February last year, the Lebanese government had announced a compensation of $33,000 for the family of each of those killed on July 22 when Israeli planes bombed the Beka Valley, she said.

"My husband was the only Indian to have lost his life from among the 15,000-odd Indian workers in the strife-torn country," said Sakuntala, a resident of Khadipala village in this coastal district, about 120 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.

"I have written umpteen times to the state government and the central government for help to get the money but it hasn't worked," she said. "The only compensation I have received from the Orissa government is Rs.25,000 and Rs.862,000 as insurance money from the Maliben Best glass factory where my husband was working," she said.

"But I am struggling to get the compensation money that would amount to Rs.1.4 million," she said. "It will help me bring up my children."

"I have also sent e-mails twice and talked many times on telephone to T.K. Bakshi, the second secretary in the Indian embassy in Beirut, and urged him to help me to get the compensation amount."

Bakshi has forwarded the letter to the immigration section of the ministry of overseas Indian affairs in New Delhi.

"V.K. Bhatia, the under secretary in the immigration section of the ministry, wrote a letter on March 29 this year to me and stated they were following up the matter."

But nothing concrete has happened so far.

Sakuntala this week wrote to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking their intervention. "They (officials) say they are monitoring the developments in Lebanon closely but not taking any steps," she said in the letter.

"Officials of the Indian embassy in Beirut have also turned a deaf ear to my plea," she alleged.

Like Debesh Swain, many workers of this district risk their lives by working in war-torn countries like Lebanon, Iraq and other countries in the Middle East.

In October 2005, motor mechanic Khirod Mohanty, 27, of Mathasahi village, 40 km from Kendrapada, died in an accident in Abu Dhabi when a crane fell on him. But his family is yet to receive any compensation, his uncle Raghunath Mohanty alleged.

Last year, another worker, Nabaghan Bhuan of Baulanga village in Kendrapada was killed by some workers in Libya. But in this case too the deceased's family has not received any compensation.

(Jatindra Dash can be contacted at [email protected])