What’s the exact number of casualties and the injured in this most tragic mishap?
After 10 days of the relief operations, total 58 were reported dead out of which one body is still unidentified and 70 injured who are hospitalised.
Have all been handed compensation announced by the Chief Minister since the government claimed it conducted rescue and relief operations on warfooting ?
Let me tell you, the kin of 38 dead were handed compensation cheques of 5 lakh by October 22, that within 3 days after the mishap occurred.
Doesn’t this show the dedication with which entire relief exercise was undertaken?
As of now, of the total, kin of the 46 dead and 42 among the injured have been given cheques of 50,000 besides free treatment. The kin of the rest of the dead will get cheques as soon as their claimants come forward. Another significant reason for quick relief disbursal was that on the CM’s directions, The state Finance Department immediately released 3 Crore for the purpose.
There were allegations that cheques were issued for lesser amount than promised?
This is wrong. In fact, our government dealt with this issue in a sensitive manner. Out of the promised compensation amount, the cheques of equal share were distributed among all the dependents of the dead to rule out chances of dispute among them.
What do you have to say about the allegations by the opposition that the Chief Minister arrived late in Amritsar?
I would say this was all politically motivated propaganda and unfortunately nothing more cheap politics being played over the dead. The CM was in Delhi to fly to Israel on official visit when the mishap occurred. He immediately deferred the visit and reached Amritsar the next morning. On his instructions I had already arrived here a few hours after the mishap. He visited the spot and made important announcements about the relief measures including setting up of crisis management panel. He had been in constant touch with us; conveyed instructions through video conferencing from Tel Aviv. Before that he asked me thrice whether he should go ahead with the scheduled Israel tour. I assured him that we would take care.
The rival parties are demanding registration of cases accusing the area MLA and minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and his wife for negligence in this case? Your comment?
Again I would say it is all politically motivated. Why can’t the opposition wait for the report of the magisterial probe ordered by the CM to look into all possible causes leading to this tragedy. The report will come out in four weeks and could be made public if produced before the stipulated period.
After rescue and relief. Have your government thought about rehabilitation of those permanently disabled?
As part of the comprehensive plan, the government will provide suitable skills and employment to whoever requires whether daily wagers victims or others. As ordered by the CM, a socio-economic survey of those affected is being done for the purpose.
How do you recognise the contribution of the NGOs and the community in general in the relief efforts?
I must say it was a great community assisted government operation. Thanks to the members of the NGOs and the area people that they helped remove dead bodies due to which rail tracks were cleared by 3 am and the same night about 700 units of blood were donated which packed the blood banks to their full capacity.