Soldiers of the Indian Army are buried in an avalanche in Kashmir while patrolling on the LoC. News is relegated to the inside pages of newspapers and casually mentioned on the electronic media. No compensation is announced. Two soldiers of the Indian Army are ambushed and killed while on patrol on the LoC. One is beheaded. News makes headlines on newspapers. There is 24x7 coverage on the electronic media. Compensation of Rs 10 lakhs is announced. The Chief of Army Staff visits the family.
Eight CRPF personnel, one Special Police Officer and a villager (possibly informer or guide) are killed in Bihar when Naxalites blow up their vehicle with a landmine. The news is again relegated to the inside pages of newspapers and casually mentioned in the electronic media. No compensation is announced.
Pilgrims died in a stampede at the Allahabad Railway Station during the Kumbh Mela. The railways announced Rs 5 lakhs as compensation and the State Government announced an additional compensation of Rs 4 lakhs. Pilgrims died at a stampede at a temple in Jodhpur Fort. State Government announced Rs 2 lakhs as compensation for the dead. A bus falls into a gorge in Uttarakhand and pilgrims are killed. The State Government pays Rs 1 lakh for each death. Labourers die in accidents while engaged in construction activities, illegal mining and other activities. People die in terrorist attacks and communal violence. Who cares if they are paid anything or not?
When people are burnt alive in factory fires, mall fires, cinema fires, fires in marriage pandals and exhibitions, do they get anything? I remember in the late ’70s a child of a labourer was run over by a truck. The case was settled for Rs 1000. Rs 500 were paid to the labourer as funeral expenses. Rs 500 were paid to the police to hush up the case. Who knows what a motor cyclist who is killed in a traffic accident gets and after how many years. A patient who dies of dengue or cholera because the governments cannot maintain a clean and hygienic environment gets nothing.
We accept that we are not equal in life. Can we be equal in death? Can the families of the dead get equal compensation and equally promptly? Why are compensations paid by governments and their departments in case of accidents? Why is additional compensation paid to soldiers, policemen and other government servants who die while on duty? The compensation and pension to be paid in case of death is laid down in their service conditions. Is it an admission of poor planning and leadership, deficient service or a gesture of good will? Or is it vote bank politics? Is the quantum of compensation to be uniform or depend on the publicity of the incident in the media and mood of the sanctioning authority?
Why is it not mandatory for government agencies like railways or state transport, employers of public and private construction companies, business establishments and organizers of functions to take out insurance policies against fire and accidents and the money paid by the government reimbursed from the insurer? Can there be a national policy on compensation? Or will we continue to be subject to the whims of our unaccountable politicians and bureaucrats whose decisions remind the people of the famous ruler of the Tughluq Dynasty, Mohammad bin Tughluq, who shifted his capital from Delhi to Ahmadnagar (Daulatabad) and back in 1327-28 at a time when the only form of transport were carts drawn by animals.
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