They allege variations in evaluation of damage done to houses and other assets

Natham Colony residents in Dharmapuri district, who suffered at the hands of a mob in November last following the marriage between Dalit boy Illavarasan and Vanniyar girl N. Divya, on Sunday, made a forceful plea before a five-member panel of officials for higher compensation.

They made it clear that when they had earlier presented their claim to the authorities for compensation, immediately after the violence, they were still in a state of shock and could not present their case properly. Apart from demanding enhanced amount of compensation, they told the panel, constituted on the order of the Madras High Court, that the area of houses, being built by the district administration for those who lost their houses, was not proportionate to the number of houses destroyed. They also contended that the Revenue authorities did not accurately estimate the jewellery looted or damaged. On the inaugural day of its hearing, the panel, headed by R. Vasuki, Additional Secretary in the State Agriculture Department, spent nearly 12 hours at the Natham Colony, listening to the woes of over 150 persons and receiving 227 petitions.

Around 9 a.m., when the panel visited Natham Colony near Naikkankottai village, it was in for surprise. There was no one to air grievances to members of the panel. About 25 minutes later, G. Kodhari, along with her husband, Gunasekaran, a mason, presented a petition claiming that she had incurred an expenditure of Rs. 20,000 for her daughter at a private eye hospital for the injuries caused during the violence and also that Rs. 80,000 kept in the almirah in her house was looted by the mob.

Gradually, other affected persons joined the Kodhari family. They all conveyed to the panel members their disagreement with the evaluation made by the Revenue department in determining the quantum of damage suffered. They were, in turn, asked by the panel to give proof in support of their fresh claim, failing which the panel would visit their houses individually.

The officials devoted almost 15 minutes for every family. They concluded their hearing at the colony at about 9 p.m. On Monday, they would have a sitting with residents of Anna Nagar and on Tuesday, with people of Kondampatti Colony.

On Saturday, the panel members visited the colonies to take stock of the steps taken by the district administration. The district officials also made a presentation on the status of relief and rehabilitation measures. According to an official, the panel, after wrapping up its hearing on Wednesday, is expected to stay back in Dharmapuri for a couple of more days, to prepare a detailed report to be submitted to the Madras High Court.

The panel was formed after the residents moved the High Court on the ground that inadequate compensation was paid. As per the Court order, the residents were paid a total of Rs. 7.32 crore.

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