Thousands of Kashmiri Pandit families on Saturday took to the streets of Jammu and protested against the stay on their relief. After visiting Jagti camp on the outskirts of Jammu city, it was found that over 22,000 families were stuck without ration for the last two months due to a dispute between a contractor and Jammu and Kashmir Relief Department.
The contractor had filed a case with the Commercial Court of Jammu regarding payment not having been made for his construction work for the relief department. As a result, the Additional Judge has instructed the treasuries not to release any money. Hence, this has created troubles in lives of thousands of relief-dependent families, some of whom, have no other source of livelihood.
Shadi Lal Pandita, a member of Jagti Tenement Corporation (JTC), has explained how the families suffered due to Covid-induced lockdowns first and now this delay in relief. The families, which are dependent on relief, were expecting a raise this year due to inflation but instead of the raise, their whole relief got blocked.
Vijay Bakshi, a man in his 50s lives in Jagti settlement at Nagrota. His two children are studying, while he is recovering from cancer. Expenses range from his medicines to the fee support for the children. Moreover, his wife cannot walk. Vijay is unsure about his next days as he has already knocked on the doors of relatives and neighbors for lending money. His patience has dried out and so has the patience of thousands of others.
On being asked about people’s suffering, a woman named Nirja Devi (45) shared that she takes care of her husband with special abilities. She, along with her husband and a daughter in Class 11, have to make adjustments to survive this period of uncertainty. She further said that her daughter does not attend tuition classes anymore as they cannot afford them.
While discussing this with Relief Commissioner Ashok Pandita, it has come to light that the situation has already become very complex with the involvement of the commercial court and the unreasonable delay in the release of relief. However, after multiple meetings with the Law Secretary, Principal Secretary Home, and multiple stakeholders involved in the resolution, he is optimistic that the department will file a stay in the High Court in the coming days and the relief will be released next month since it’s without any fault of the relief holders.
Meanwhile, Mamata (37), a widow and a mother of two, is also a daughter to a breast cancer survivor. She sat quietly at her home, TV on mute, staring into the bedroom where her ailing mother was sleeping. Sharing her ordeal, Mamata said she has no money left for her the treatment of her mother or studies of her children after losing her private job in the second wave of coronavirus pandemic.
Tragedies latch on to us – to all of us, but to some, it embeds in their skin, enters the chromosomes and alters their fate. And it is this tragedy that persuades me to write and persuades me to ask from the stakeholders to resolve the plight at the earliest.