When Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper Ramesh Kumar died in the line of duty during the 2002 Jammu and Kashmir elections, Rs5 lakh was the least his widow, Pramila Devi, expected as the compensation she was entitled to. Devi never imagined it would take her 18 years and repeated reminders to get the compensation.
Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora, ordered the transfer of Rs20 lakh into Devi’s bank account after she had an email sent to him last month about the pending payment around two decades after Kumar played a part in ensuring what has been described among fairest electoral exercises in the erstwhile state. The elections ushered in an extended spell of peace in the region, where rigged polls in the 1980s are widely believed to have triggered a protracted insurgency.
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In the email dated August 10, Devi wrote to Arora that Jammu & Kashmir’s chief electoral officer did not respond to her reminders for the compensation for 18 years. Devi was entitled to Rs5 lakh in 2002, but Arora ordered the Rs20 lakh transfer citing “extenuating circumstances” of the case. The families in such cases are currently entitled to Rs10 lakh through cheques.
Arora emailed Devi on August 26, apologising for the delay and thanked her for her husband’s sacrifice once the compensation was processed. He has also written to all state election commissions to assess if any such cases were still pending with them.
“A stern view has been taken of the institutional failure and lack of sensitivity, bordering on apathy, on part of the administrative machinery, which failed to respect the memory of the departed,” Arora said in the letter, a copy of which HT has seen.
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He asked the chief electoral officers to create a digital database to track the settlements of such legacy and all future claims.
Officials said only two such cases were found related to Jammu & Kashmir and were being immediately addressed. The Election Commission is working out the modalities to ensure such payments are expedited, they added.
“The idea is that once a death on duty is confirmed, the ECI [Election Commission of India] will directly transfer the compensation into the bank account of the next of kin if available,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
Former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi said since such payments are sensitive, they are normally processed as soon as possible. “Such cases of severe delay are rare,” said Quraishi. “Bank transfers make sense, as salaries and other benefits, too, have moved to that platform.”