Friday, November 16, 2018 | 12:51 AM

Pellets shatter Khalid Maroof’s dream to become ‘Mr Kashmir’

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

At the age of 20, Khalid Maroof was a popular name in Budgam district. Tall and well built, Maroof had won “Mr Budgam” title in 2015 and was preparing to compete for “Mr Kashmir” title. Not only his passion for the game, being a good Samaritan had also won him admirers.

From his plumber work he would earn Rs 30,000 to Rs 40000 per month. “I was simultaneously studying,” Maroof says.
But his life changed forever during 2016 uprising when he was hit by pellets fired by Indian forces, in his both eyes, impairing his vision completely.

Today, Maroof has become dependent, both physically and financially and needs help for everything, even for walking around in his own house.

Asked if the government’s compensation scheme for pellet victims had proved of some help to him, he responds: “It has not helped anyone I know of.”

Hundreds of pellet victims, many of them blinded in both eyes, have been left disappointed by the government which had assured to rehabilitate them. These pellet victims today wonder whether the government’s compensation scheme for pellet victims would reach them ever.

During assembly session in Jammu in 2017 former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had announced a policy for rehabilitation of the pellet victims including giving jobs and compensation to the victims.

In January this year former revenue minister AR Veeri revealed that just 13 pellet victims were given jobs and 22 others were given cash compensation of Rs 2 lakh each during more than a year after the policy was announced. Many of those who were provided jobs haven’t received even their first salary till date for want of police verification.

A government formed committee under the chairmanship of divisional commissioner Kashmir had been tasked to identify people who were “permanently disabled” due to pellet injuries.

As per records at SMHS Hospital in Srinagar, over 1300 people shot in eyes with pellets have completely or partially lost eyesight.

The pellet victims believe that the rehabilitation process is proving to be a joke considering the scale of injuries. An unorganized group of pellet victims, led by Muhammad Ashraf Wani, a pellet victim himself, has been constantly seeking help from the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to press government to extend compensation to all the affected and needy victims.

“Every week we go there (SHRC), meet the officials,” Mir says. However, for the past one year, numerous communications from the commission to the government in this regard have not yielded anything, says Mir.

According to the rehabilitation policy for the pellet victims only those who had suffered 100 percent vision loss were entitled to jobs and cash compensation.

But the victims like Mir and others argue that there are “many who have totally lost vision but have been left out”.

“If they don’t deserve to be included in the rehabilitation policy then this entire policy is a cruel joke. There are more than three dozen persons who have lost vision in the range of 70 to 80 percent and have been left crippled for life. Nobody talks about them,” he said.

The Amnesty International that has been calling for complete ban on use of pellet shot-guns has in the past also raised questions over the “sporadic and inadequate measures taken by the state government to provide compensation to pellet shotgun victims.”

Umar Nazir, a 14-year old boy from Adabal Pulwama too was hit by pellets in both eyes. He has “disability of 100 percent” as per the certificate issued by SMHS Hospital.

But his father, Nazir Ahmed Ganaie, a labourer, is struggling to get compensation from the authorities. “I sold everything I had for treatment of my son. I want his future to be secure somehow,” Ganaie says.

After many trips to local revenue office, human rights bodies and other government offices, Ganaie has now given up expectations of receiving any relief or compensation for his child whose life has been brought to a standstill by pellets. 

“He was a lively boy and I hoped that he would study and be able to support himself and his family,” Ganaie sighs. “But now, he is a dependent… for his entire life. There is no help from any side,” the distraught father laments.

A senior government official who insisted not to be named acknowledged that the pace of clearing the pellet victims’ cases was “slow”

He said in the first phase, the committee had recommended 54 cases for grant of cash compensation and jobs while as 10 more cases were recommended in second phase.

“Some of the cases are under examination,” he said.

Source: Greater Kashmir