Tuesday 8 November 2011

Compensation to Kin of Gayatri Kumbh killed raises some Serious Questions

Written by Anil Singh

A very unfortunate incident, a suffocation induced stampede, resulted in the death of 16 people, while injuring many in the ongoing celebrations at Gayatri Kumbh at Haridwar (organized by Gayatri Parivar Haridwar celebrating the Birth Centenary of Gayatri Parivar founder Pandit Ram Chandra Sharma).

Soon after the confirmation of the deaths and injuries, the Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri and Gayatri Parivar organisation both offered a compensation of Rs.2 lakh to the kin of each of the 16 killed in a stampede. Indian PM Manmohan Singh also announced a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh to the kin of each deceased. In addition, Mr. Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, also announced Rs 2 Lakh each to the kin of those killed.

As said in the beginning, the incident is quite saddening and I pray to God to give strength to those who have lost their loved ones in this tragic but avoidable incident. And no matter how the Governments and the organizer try to compensate their loss; the loss of a loved one can never be compensated.

But the incident has brought to debate, once again, a few issues regarding the working of our system. The issues which need an urgent think over; so that mistakes are not repeated in future.

Leaving other erring points for electronic and print media to debate; let I share with you an issue which I have witnessed time and again; whenever such a mishap happens. And the issue is that of Compensation.

For many years now, I have observed that, the compensation the Government announces in such incidents depends on the political considerations; rather than considering the person who is deceased or injured.

Hence, if the Government assumes that, if not compensated well, the issue will snow ball into a big crisis or expose Government’s loopholes, then the compensation is big; else it’s so small that it shames the death itself.

Take a look at the Gayatri Kumbh Haridwar stampede compensation -- Four different institutions announced compensation in a frenzy; with the one announced by MP CM Chauhan simply deceiving the simplest of logic. Mr. Chauhan, who is a CM of a different state, was present at Gayatri Kumbh at Haridwar as a guest. Since the safe and secure commencement of an event lies on the state of Uttarakhand and to some extent on central Government; the MP CM announcing Rs 2 Lakh compensation cannot be understood. The fact that he belongs to a pro Hindu party, doesn't allow him to announce compensation to victims of a mishap at some hindu festival that took place in a state he is not in charge of . In fact it would have been better, if the same money is spent judiciously on the people of Madhya Pradesh.

Other examples from the past are,

In the Samjhauta blast, the Congress Government gave 10 Lakh to the kin of those killed.

In train accidents, there is no strict policy regarding the compensation amount.

Today, the Government at Centre, the BJP Uttarakhand Government and the organizers offered separate compensations.

So, compensations are being decided in the country and in Uttarakhand without any proper policy. Which is a sad scenario, as whenever Governments compensate, they compensate from exchequer’s money. That’s the money which belongs to you and I.

On contrary, look at the compensation paid by Uttarakhand Governments (of the past and present) to those killed or injured in road accidents, natural calamities like landslides in the state. If my observation serves me right, then the compensation, most of the times, is under One Lakh in the case of death.

And this happens, when most of Uttarakhand’s geography and roads are prone to accidents.

Why so many benchmarks being adopted to calculate the worth of human life and its agility?

Don’t you think it’s time, to demand the governments to have a uniform compensation policy?

Lives of people, whether living on a hill or a plain, educated or illiterate, rich or poor; should be treated as equal.

At least such a behavior is expected of those who take our votes. It’s ok if a competent agency, like an insurance firm, compensates people differently. But such a behavior is not worthy on part of elected representatives and governments.

What the Governments should do:

1) Don’t announce compensation on the spot
2) Make a uniform compensation policy
3) Appoint specialist agencies, like Insurance companies, to ascertain the amount of insurance.
4) Government office holders should Stop treating the government treasury as their own. The money belongs to people; so let competent agencies (insurance companies and experts) decide on the compensation amount as well.
5) Whether it's Congress or BJP or any other party or political conglomerate; compensating people on religious and political affiliations is bad.

Let’s think on this by transgressing our political beliefs. Lets contemplate on this issue as a Uttarakhand-ite and as an Indian.

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