Balwant Garg, Tribune News Service
Faridkot, October 25. Six months after the Punjab Government started providing protection and boarding to inter-caste couples in government rest houses, the district administration in Faridkot finds itself in a piquant situation.
While the state government is not releasing any funds for boarding and lodging of these couples, their stay in the state government rest houses apparently makes for financial burden on the district administration.
In the last five months, 14 couples reached Faridkot to seek protection and stayed in Sainik and PWD rest houses.
While the stay of these couples, up to 25 days in some cases, escorted by police guards in the rest houses, created a space problem for government guests, another problem area is provision of food to these couples and the police guards accompanying them.
As there is no financial provision to foot these bills, some revenue officials are bearing the expenses, hoping there would be reimbursement by the state government.
But the chances of reimbursement look bleak. In the last two months, the Faridkot Deputy Commissioner’s office has written three letters to the Home Affairs and Justice Department Punjab for payment of the bills, but so far, there has been no response.
“We are hopeful of getting the funds in the coming days,” said Ravi Bhagat, DC Faridkot.
“So far, there is no provision of funds for payment towards boarding and lodging for these couples, so we have written to the state government,” said the DC.
D S Bains, Principal Secretary, Home Affairs and Justice Punjab, said he was not aware of the problem.
“I don’t know whether the state government is supposed to bear the food expenses for the stay of the couples in the government rest houses. Until I go through the Punjab and Haryana High Court orders, I can’t comment on this issue,” he said.
The scenario follows many honour killings in Haryana and Punjab and many inter-caste couples rushing to the High Court, seeking police security to escape the wrath of their family members.
To prevent honour killings, in March 2011, the High Court had directed the state government to provide protection to such couples. The protection umbrella includes provision of accommodation at government rest houses and police protection to save them from any attack by their relatives or family members.
Another problem area for the district administration is shortage of space for government guests. “While eight rooms of Circuit Rest House in Faridkot have already been allotted to the Commissioner’s Office for official work, the long stay of newly wed couples has further created space shortage for government guests,” said a supervisor.
A senior officer in Home Affairs and Justice Department in Chandigarh said keeping in view the shortage of space in the rest house, the department has decided to provide accommodation to these couples for a maximum of 10 days, with the couples having to pay a minimum fixed amount. Moreover, the couples will have to foot the food bills, he added.
In August last year, the state government issued directions to all district police chiefs in the state to constitute five-member district-level counselling cells to assist imperilled lovers. The cell was meant to guide parents in resolving differences due to caste, creed or social status barriers.
Over a year down the line, these cells are a mere formality. There was not even a single meeting of this cell in the last one year and no case was referred to it for counselling, said Vishav Jyoti Dhir, a noted short story writer who is also a member of the District Honour Killing Counselling Cell in Faridkot.