October 17, 2002. The day Sanghamitra Roy’s world crumbled. The day her father Parag, mother Ruby and sister Monomita were killed in a car accident while holidaying in Sikkim.
Close to two months later, the 22-year-old M.Sc student of Kalyani University is struggling to pick up the pieces. But making it almost impossible for her to get life into any semblance of order is the ceasework in courts.
The girl had written to her father’s company, DCPL, for the group staff pension due to him, but her requests have been turned down for the want of a succession certificate. Besides, there are several bank accounts and savings certificates that need a court clearance too.
“Till the ongoing impasse in court ends and the backlog is cleared, I have no hope of getting my father’s dues and pension,” laments Sanghamitra, at her grandfather’s place in Behala. She is now completely dependent on her extended family for support. Her maternal uncle Ashish Biswas and his cousin Gautam Mondal, are also trying to help her out with the paperwork.
But the biggest stumbling block has been the lawyers’ ceasework, protesting the Ordinance hiking court fees. “At every step, we are being asked to produce court documents or get things validated by the courts. The strike has been on for almost a month now and with little sign of it ending, we really don’t know what to do next,” says Biswas.
The red tape, in young Sanghamitra’s case, extends from the neighbouring Belghoria post office to the Gangtok municipality. When Biswas and Mondal went to the Belghoria post-office to transfer Parag’s monthly income scheme of Rs 1.2 lakh in Sanghamitra’s name, they were asked to get the death registration certificate.
“As the registration certificate will have to be issued by the Gangtok municipality, the entire process is taking a long time,” said Biswas. “This is a technicality we must follow,” clarified Ranjit Basu, claims officer, Belghoria post office.
As days turn into weeks, the wait is leaving Sanghamitra jittery, making it tough for her to cope with the tragedy and sort out the officialese. She has just about started commuting on her own from Behala to Kalyani, thanks to the efforts of a senior professor Dr Santra, who has been counselling her after the accident.
“Before the accident, Sanghamitra was earning Rs 1,000 from private tuitions. But now, she is in no frame of mind to do that. If her father’s savings had come through, she should not have had a problem meeting her own educational expenses. But with the lawyers’ strike carrying on, it seems bad luck will continue to haunt my niece,” laments Biswas.