N-E Delhi riots: Over 2.7K compensation pleas pending re-assessment — all scattered & none to blame yet

Among those waiting for revised compensation — Delhi Fire Services and Delhi Transport Corporation

N-E Delhi riots: Over 2.7K compensation pleas pending re-assessment — all scattered & none to blame yet

New Delhi: While the Delhi government has said that it has approved 2,164 claims for monetary compensation of residents affected in the north-east Delhi riots last year and disbursed a little over Rs 26 crore to the victims in ex-gratia, there are over 2,720 victims of the riots, who are still waiting for what they're owed, either because their claims were rejected without reason or because they received nonsensically disproportionate compensation for the losses they suffered.

And these claims are currently stuck at various stages of a complex re-assessment process that is being run by a group of officials in the Delhi government on the one hand and an independent Delhi High Court mandated Commission, that is struggling to re-evaluate the cases in time, on the other.

In fact, as the Delhi government reevaluates individual victims' cases, the court-mandated commission is re-evaluating applications for revised claims filed by the Delhi Transport Corporation and the Delhi Fire Services.

As of February 8, the Delhi government said it had received a total of 3,425 applications for compensation. Of these, 1,179 claims applications were rejected, of which 25 have now been reopened for assessment by the Delhi government. These were initially closed because the families were untraceable immediately after the riots.

In addition to this, the Delhi Assembly's Minorities Welfare Committee (MWC) has upon an assessment of their own, sent 99 cases of the rejected claims applications back to the Delhi government, raising red flags over the manner in which they were rejected without conducting a proper assessment.

And yet, the independent commission set up by the Delhi High Court on complaints of insufficient compensation amounts has another 2,600 compensation claims pending for re-assessment with a fast-approaching deadline of April 13 as set by the high court.

Despite so many claims pending a full re-assessment, some because of the seeming inefficiency of the initial assessment team, neither the Delhi government nor the high court mandated commission is closer to fixing responsibility for the errors that have resulted in families like that of Mohammed Muzahid struggling to make ends meet.

Muzahid had a steel manufacturing and welding shop in Yamuna Vihar, which was burnt and destroyed by rioters last year. According to estimates of the Delhi government, after a second re-assessment, he suffered losses of Rs 35-40 lakh.

"I have one son preparing for NEET exams, one in class XII and a daughter in class XI. The big plans I had for my children have all gone, now I am struggling to provide for my family," Muzahid said.

Same is the case for Jalil Ahmed of Karawal Nagar, whose own premises and tenant's premises were burnt and who suffered a loss of Rs 7 lakh. According to a second check by the Delhi government, there was credible video footage of the damage to Jalil's premises and yet he was given Rs 1,806 as compensation.

Similarly, Karan Singh received only Rs 25,000 while his loss amounted to Rs 11 lakh when his plastic godown was burnt during the riots.

These are just three of the 99 cases sent by the Delhi Assembly's MWC for re-assessment. Of the cases sent back by the MWC, the Delhi government has rejected 24, according to a senior official aware of the matter.

Of these 99 re-assessment cases, one is illegible and 48 are for damages to residential properties, of which 32 were for faulty compensation amount being disbursed.

According to data accessed by Millennium Post, there are 40 cases under the commercial category for reassessment out of which in 26 cases, the paperwork was processed but the wrong amount was disbursed, four cases under the 'Residential/Commercial' category, four cases in which there was no record found in the north-east district, implying it could have been fake cases.

One of these cases came under the injury category and one was a death case.

While the initial re-assessment of these cases has been completed, the revised compensation amount is yet to be disbursed and the government is yet to figure out who or which entity was responsible for the initial discrepancies.

Senior officials tracking the progress of the re-assessment have said that the Delhi government is waiting for the MWC to send all faulty claims applications at once so that they can be processed en masse and have even told the committee about this.

"We do not have dedicated teams for it. At the time of the riot last year, we constituted officials from the government and the respective district officials to work on ground and give out compensation. A lot of the assessment heavily depended on the ground reality at the time hence it is difficult to reassess it now after a year," one official explained.

However, a senior Cabinet Minister told Millennium Post that the government will look into the re-assessment of the cases and the necessary compensation amount will be given out. But this will take time.

As the Delhi government waits for the MWC to send over all the re-assessment claims application, those applicants that were rejected on reevaluation from the MWC can approach the high court-mandated commission, headed by retired Delhi High Court judge, Justice Sunil Gaur, who is now already dealing with 2,600 more claims applications for re-assessment.

Justice Gaur is the Assessment Officer of the North-East Delhi Riots Compensation Claims Commission (NEDRCCC), set up by the Delhi High Court with approval from L-G Anil Baijal for a comprehensive re-assessment of all claims of faulty or missed compensation.

Justice Gaur said that the Commission had received 2,600 claims applications so far, of which 22 are for deaths, 126 for injuries, and the remaining are for property damage. Of these, he said his commission has been able to review and re-assess only around 500.

"Most who have filed for review are people who are unhappy with the amount very few have filed who did not receive anything. Delhi government's own Fire and DTC departments have also filed for review," he said.

Currently, the commission is asking complainants for necessary paperwork so that it can be cross-checked. Justice Gaur said that the commission is taking a "practical and ground-reality perspective" and that while it was initially given six months (ending on April 13), the high number of cases and low manpower will most likely stretch the time needed.

"We don't grant or put a cap on the amount to be disbursed. We look into the truth and reality of it only. It is up to the high court and state government if the figures we suggest are to be disbursed or not," Gaur said.

This is the eighth part in Millennium Post's series on the one year since the north-east Delhi riots

Part 1: Delhi Police say 1,753 held but courts heard over 4,347 bail pleas

Part 2: In 100 bail orders: 'Videos' used for arrest in 44; 32 of these failed court scrutiny

Part 3: Of courts' bugbears, most common 'doubtful' police, public witness statements

Part 4: A Delhi Police-sized roadblock in victims' path to justice — clubbing of irrelevant, unrelated FIRs

Part 5: Defence lawyers face an opaque prosecution and an uncooperative probe authority

Part 6: Interactions with police have led to a complete breakdown of trust for many

Part 7: Pandemic response helped us repair relations with the community, say Delhi Police

Part 9: Justice an afterthought for families of most victims still struggling to move on

Part 10: Collateral damage: Tales from jail, of abuse & trauma

Part 11: How, when and where it began & why it is missing from cops' theory

This Millennium Post series reports stories that highlight the nuances of how the north-east district has changed, what level of distrust has been sown into the community, how policing has changed in the area, how or whether the victims are coping, the problems they are facing with the criminal justice system and the problems police, prosecutors and defence lawyers are having to deal with in courts -- One year after the north-east Delhi riots that killed at least 53 people and injured nearly 600 others.

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