Punjab to pay millions for riot damages


Chandigarh : A week after rioters brought the state to a standstill and caused extensive damage to public and private properties, the Punjab government Sunday announced that it will pay compensation to all those who suffered losses.

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Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said the government would pay compensation for the damages to private properties during the recent rioting following the killing of a Dera Sachh Khand leader in a gurdwara clash in Austrian capital Vienna.

“The extent of loss or damage caused to private property including vehicles and commercial or business establishments is being assessed. A comprehensive survey has been ordered to identify the victims and to determine the magnitude of the loss suffered in each case. The deputy commissioners of districts have been asked to prepare reports based on data gathered through official and independent sources,” a statement issued by Badal said.

The compensation would runs into millions of rupees, state officials said here.

Hundreds of protestors resorted to violence May 24-25 in areas of central Punjab comprising Jalandhar, Phagwara, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Patiala and a few other towns.

The rioting took place as followers of the Dera Sachh Khand, which has majority Dalit Sikh followers of Guru Ravidass, went on the rampage after sect head, Sant Niranjan Dass was injured in the attack and his deputy Sant Rama Nand Dass died in the attack.

“There can be no compromise on the issue of peace, public order and communal harmony in the state. No one would be allowed to hold the state to ransom. Anyone trying to do so would be dealt with a firm hand under the provisions of the law,” Badal said.

Nearly 150 private vehicles, including expensive luxury cars, were set on fire by the protestors even as the Punjab Police and district administration failed to control the mobs. Most of the damage to vehicles was in Jalandhar, Phagwara and Hoshiarpur.

The rioters had a virtual free-run for nearly 40 hours as they blocked highways and other roads, set government and private vehicles on fire and stopped trains. Coaches of two trains were set on fire in and around Jalandhar city, 150 km from here.

While Badal said that the government would bear full expenses for the treatment of those who suffered injuries during the trouble, he added that it was also considering ways and means to provide adequate relief to the victims for any other damage or loss suffered.

He said that the government had already decided to provide adequate relief to officials who were at the receiving end of the acts of lawlessness. This would include police officials who were injured.

Reacting to criticism that the state government was slow to react, Badal said that mobilizing the police, paramilitary forces and the army took 8-12 hours and a few more hours to deploy them.

“The government is quite clear that any lawless and anti-social element has to be dealt with most emphatic and firm manner but at the same time it does not overlook the thin line that divides firmness from recklessness. The situation was handled with a judicious mix of tact, restraint and firmness,” Badal said.