Dharmistha Natubhai Rathod from Vansi Borsi village of Navsari district in South Gujarat, was 23 years old then and the mother of four year old son Nitin and seven month old Asmita, when the sky fell on her. On November 27, 2008 morning she learned that her husband Natubhai was missing, the boat Kuber on which he had sailed for fishing had been hijacked by terrorists, tandel (captain) Amarsinh’s body had been found, while Natubhai and others were missing.
Talking to IANS, Dharmistha said, “I am illiterate, but with the help of the Vansi Borsi panchayat sarpanch and social workers first we fought to get a missing certificate or death certificate which neither the Maharashtra or the Gujarat governments were ready to issue.”
Left with little hope, but with the help of a NGO a petition was moved in the court to direct the state to issue the death certificate. It took almost ten long years, she said and added that it was only in 2019 that the court declared them dead and directed the state government to release the compensation.
For all these years Dharmistha worked as a maid in the village trying to make the two ends meet. During that time, her son Nitin grew up, started working as a labourer and shared the financial burden. However, this did not last long, she lost her son seven months ago after a brief illness.
She, along with the other three families, received Rs five lakh as compensation in 2020, which is in a fixed deposit form, so only the interest is allowed to be withdrawn. Every three months she gets Rs 3000 as interest, from which she has to meet the expenses of herself and her daughter Asmita who is studying in class 10. Even a maid’s job is not easily available as the village is small and most of the villagers are middle class families. She is hardly paid Rs 50 to Rs 100 per day, but does not get to work for all 30 days in a month.
Vansi Borsi panchayat sarpanch Bharat Patel feels bad about the meagre compensation amount. It is peanuts, how can a family of two survive on Rs 1000 a month. The state government should give more compensation so that the family can live with dignity.
The state government is not serious, the Rs five lakh compensation is partial, they want Rs 20 lakh per person which the state government has challenged in the appellate court, said Balubhai Sosha, president of the Samudra Shramik Suraksha Sangh.
He took up the case of Ramesh Bambhaniya of Gir Gadha village (Gir Somnath district) who too was killed by the LeT terrorists on the MV Kuber. Because of the legal fight fought by advocate Anand Yajnik in the High Court, Ramesh’s wife Jesiban and others got Rs 5 lakh. He also got them the insurance benefit of Rs 45000 from the group insurance scheme.
Sosha said the boat captain Amarsi was from Diu, the central government not only paid compensation for his death, but gave a job to one of his family members in the Union Territory. Compared to that the Gujarat government is acting in a callous manner and not standing with the crew members’ families in their bad times.