Protesters block Jammu-Pathankot highway demanding judicial probe into death of 2 relatives of COVID-19 victim
Jammu: Protesters blocked the Jammu-Pathankot highway here on Saturday, demanding a judicial probe into the death of two relatives of a COVID-19 victim due to the alleged negligence on the part of the district administration.
District Magistrate Sushma Chauhan has already ordered a time-bound magisterial probe into the death of Vimal Zadoo and his cousin brother Vipan Zadoo on Thursday during the cremation of their uncle who breathed his last a day earlier after testing positive for COVID-19.
On Saturday morning, the district administration announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs two lakh each on “humanitarian grounds” to the next of kin of the deceased, while the COVID-19 test conducted on the bodies of Vimal and Vipan came out negative.
Raising slogans in support of appropriate action against the erring officials, a large number of protesters, including family members of the deceased, took to streets at Gangyal on the outskirts of the city and blocked the highway in support of their demand for judicial probe and adequate compensation to the bereaved families.
“The death of our young men was the direct result of negligence on the part of the administration. They were taken from place to place, wearing PPE kits, in search of cremation ground amid heat wave and were not even provided water,” one of the protesters said, claiming that they died of dehydration and cannot be dismissed as a “natural death” and instead be treated as a “murder”.
Senior BJP leader and former legislator Vikram Randhawa, who joined the protest, said those responsible for the “failure” to protect the lives of the people should be taken to task.
“The circumstances leading to the death of the duo is condemnable,” he said, demanding a government job and accommodation for the family of Vimal who left behind his wife and two minor daughters.
Local Municipal Corporator Baldev Singh Billawaria said it is very unfortunate that the administration has failed to identify a suitable place till date for the cremation of the COVID-19 victims despite witnessing unpleasant situations during the cremation of the COVID-19 victims in the past.
Senior police and civil officers rushed to the scene and after hectic efforts of several hours managed to clear the highway for traffic, officials said.
They said a board of doctors, which was constituted by the Government Medical College (GMC), conducted the postmortem on the deceased and later their bodies were handed over to their families for last rites on Saturday.
“On humanitarian grounds, the district administration will extend an ex gratia of Rs two lakh to each of the NOKs of the two persons who died in an unfortunate incident that took place during cremation of COVID positive patient,” the district magistrate said.