Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday promised adequate compensation by the state government for the families of the Iraq victims but reiterated his demand for the Centre also to recompense them since the tragedy had occurred overseas.
The Chief Minister, on compassionate grounds, also ordered immediate release of Rs. 20000 as monthly pension to each of the bereaved families for February and March 2018, waiving off the condition of quarterly payouts. The DCs have been asked to disburse the pension amount immediately, he added.
Dismissing as false the allegation made by Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia that the families of the victims had not been paid compensation by the state government for the past six months, the Chief Minister said payment had been made till January 31, 2018, as of yesterday. With the release of the next two months’ pension, the payment was now completely up to date, he added.
Talking to mediapersons at the state Assembly, he clarified that the state government had been paying the monthly pension to 24 families, of which it so far had information.
The Chief Minister had earlier informed the House that, as per the information received from the Ministry of External Affairs, there are 27 victims from Punjab, of whom 11 hailed from Majha region and 11 from Doaba, with the remaining were from other parts of the state.
Intervening in a discussion on Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s call attention to extend adequate financial assistance to the next of the kin of the bereaved families, the Chief Minister told the Vidhan Sabha that all criteria for compensation is such matters would be duly followed by his government.
He further said that his government would not indulge in any politics or arguments with the Centre on grant of compensation, but stressed that it was the central government’s responsibility also to provide financial assistance since the killings took place outside the country.
In response to questions from members, he said the mortal remains of the victims would take some time to reach India as there were some legal issues, which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was trying to sort out with the authorities in Mosul.
Captain Amarinder Singh told the members that he was in constant touch with the External Affairs Minister in this regard and had been told that the bodies of the ill-fated Punjabis would land at Amritsar Airport once the requisite formalities are completed by the Mosul authorities in Iraq. He further said that the coffins with the remains of the deceased would be received at the Airport by the state government, with full respect and honour, before being handed over to the respective families for the last rites.
Meanwhile, expressing gratitude to Captain Amarinder Singh for showing magnanimity on this emotive issue, Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira said that the State Government should extend maximum financial assistance to the families, besides mounting pressure on the Union Government for additional compensation for them.
Congress MLA Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi expressed grief over the tragic incident and suggested that all MLAs, cutting across party lines, should approach the central government to seek Rs. 1 crore compensation and a job for each of the families.
Ruling out any politics on the issue, Congress member Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon was also of the view that while the state government was doing everything for the welfare of the bereaved families, the Centre also had a responsibility towards them.