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Eyeing polls, Centre woos Gujarat riot victims
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September 20, 2007 19:50 IST

Ahead of the assembly elections to be held in Gujarat by the year-end, the Centre on Thursday announced a Rs 70.55-crore package for victims of the 2002 sectarian violence in that state.

The Union home ministry asked the state government to settle the claims by the end of October and send utilization certificates to it. Elections in Gujarat are due in December.

In 1,169 cases of death, the assistance will be Rs 3.5 lakh in addition to what has already been paid by the state. In 2,548 cases of injury the ex-gratia aid will be Rs 1.25 lakh, but minus the amount paid by the state.      

"The entire expenditure on payment of ex-gratia in case of death and injury will be borne by the Central government," a home ministry spokesman said, adding that only those who received ex-gratia earlier will be eligible for the additional amount.

"I request the state government to disburse the amount made available by the Centre at the earliest," Home Minister Shivraj Patil told PTI.

"We are also working on other aspects of the comprehensive relief and rehabilitation package, approved by the Union Cabinet for the riot victims in March this year," he said.

Sources in the ministry said if the state government has failed to provide aid to any victims, they would be brought under the purview of the Central package.

The state government has also been told to identify uninsured commercial and residential property that was damaged in the violence and send the list to the Centre so that it could pay compensation.

The Union Cabinet had in March approved a comprehensive relief and rehabilitation package for all victims of the sectarian violence in Gujarat. It had decided that in case of damage to residential and commercial property, the compensation will be 'ten times the amount given by the state government minus the amount already paid.'

The Gujarat relief package, likely to be to the tune of Rs 106 crore, is similar to that provided to victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Earlier, the Centre had in 2002 made available to Gujarat Rs 155 crore for providing relief and rehabilitation to the victims. The state government used Rs 136 crore and returned Rs 19 crore to the Centre, sources said.

Sources said the home ministry has already suggested the relaxation of modalities for appointing the kin of those who died in the violence in the Gujarat government, PSUs and paramilitary forces.

The state government has been asked to launch a special recruitment drive and to relax norms for rejoining jobs and providing pension benefits for those who had to leave their jobs prematurely due to the violence.

The Centre has also decided to consider providing all necessary measures for improving infrastructure and providing civic amenities, such as drinking water, sanitary facilities, health centres and approach roads, to the victims.

Violence had erupted in parts of Gujarat after a fire in the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra claimed 27 lives on February 27, 2002.

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