Kuwait fire: MPs, relatives demand higher compensation for dependents from govts, NBTC

People of Kalikkadavu in Kasaragod gather as the mortal remains of Kunhikelu Ponmaleri is brought to his house on Friday. Photo: Special arrangement

Kasaragod MP-elect and Congress leader Rajmohan Unnithan said the Union government should give a compensation of Rs 50 lakh each to the families of 45 Indians killed in the fire accident in Kuwait.

The Kerala government should also raise the compensation amount according to the financial condition of the families, he said. "The MPs from Kerala will together meet the Prime Minister to request for a higher compensation for the families. If needed, we will meet President Droupadi Murmu," Unnithan said.

Kollam MP-elect N K Premachandran also said that the compensation amounts announced by the Union government and the State government were inadequate. A special package should be announced for the dependents of the deceased and the non-residents, he said.

The mortal remains of the 45 Indians killed were brought to India on a transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force on Friday, June 14. Twenty-four of them were Malayalis. Two persons from Kasaragod -- K R Ranjith (33) and Kelu Ponmaleri (58) -- died in the fire accident at the labour accommodation of Naser M Al Baddah & Partner General Trading & Contracting Company (NBTC), one of Kuwait's biggest construction companies.

Rajmohan Unnithan pressed for a higher compensation after calling on the family of K R Ranjith (33), a native of Chengala in Kasaragod district.

His body reached his small village called Kundadukkam in Chengala panchayat from Kochi airport around 8.30 pm. Around 1,500 people were waiting to bid him bye. The body was kept in front of his neighbour Sasikumar E's house for the people to pay their last respects because his own small house built last year did not have the space to accommodate such a huge crowd.

Ranjith, who worked as an accountant for NBTC Group, was supposed to have come on leave during this Onam vacation, said his neighbours. "His family had planned to get him married this time," said a neighbour.

Around 10 pm, Ranjith's body was taken to his house for cremation.

On June 12, his mother Rukmani, an MNREGS worker, waited for his daily phone call in the morning. When the call did not come, she left for work. After some time, her younger son Rajeesh called her to say Ranjith suffered minor burn injuries at his workplace.

Rukmani left her work and rushed back home and started praying. It went unheard.

The victims are Ponmaleri Kunhikelu (58) of Thekkumbad in South Trikaripur and K Ranjith (34) of Kundadka in Cherkala. Photo: Special arrangement.

Kelu was supposed to retire in December
Kunhikelu Ponmaleri (58), a production engineer with NBTC Group in Kuwait, was supposed to end his two-decades-long innings in the Gulf by December.

Last September when he came home for the holidays, his wife K N Mani, a clerk with Pilicode grama panchayat office, and two sons K N Rishikesh and Dev Kiran too asked him to call it a day. According to people close to his family, Kunhikelu had asked for one more year. But the fire at his accommodation in Kuwait destroyed the family's plan.

Around 7.30 pm on Friday, his mortal remains reached Kalikkadavu, on the border of Kasaragod and Kannur district. As his birthplace Eravil in Pilicode panchayat is only 500m from Kalikadavu, the body was kept there for the public to pay their last respect. Around 1,000 people from Karivellur panchayat in Kannur district to Cheruvathur panchayat in Kasaragod district had gathered there.

After more than an hour, the body was taken to Thekkumbad in Trikaripur panchayat, where Kelu and his wife Mani bought a new house recently. After another hour, the body was taken to the community crematorium at Annur in Pilicode.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan pays respects to the Kuwait fire victims. Photo: Manorama

Compensation not enough
Ranjith's cousin Pavithran M K expressed his family's displeasure with the government and the company NBTC group for announcing low compensation for the dependents of those who died in the fire accident.

The Union government announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh and the state government announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh. "Our state's economy runs on remittances from NRIs but when something happens to us, we are left to fend for ourselves. Even dependents of those killed by wild animals get more compensation," said Pavithran.

He also criticised the company NBTC for announcing "a low ex-gratia of Rs 8 lakh" each for dependents of the deceased.  

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