In death, as in life, is there a “class” bias?

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN: The Mangalore air crash in May last year was a horrendous tragedy in which 158 passengers and crew died.

The plane was just about to land and the majority of the relatives of passengers had even seen the plane touch down on the runway before the accident occurred.

The pilot unable to control the plane crashed on the tabletop runway.

After a dispute with regard to the quantum of compensation broke out, the Kerala High Court has awarded a compensation of Rs 75 lakh to the family of each victim, which is to be paid by the already cash-strapped Air India.

The compensation was based on the 1999 Montreal convention to which India is a signatory.

***

These days Mamata didi’s trains are getting into some accident, tragedy or the other. She even has a train called Durantho (Bengali for ‘end to long distance’).

Tragically more and more trains are becoming casualties of duranth.

To the victims of rail accidents, the government gives Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the victims’ relatives, Rs 1 lakh for major injuries and Rs 25,000 for minor injuries.

67 passengers died in the train accident of Kalka Mail on 10 July 2011 . The government announced compensation as per the above scale to the families of victims.

***

When an overcrowded jeep collided with a KSRTC bus near Tumkur on June 27 and 15 people died, chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the families of the deceased and Rs 15,000 for the injured.

***

The most obvious takeaway from these three accidents is that death is a great leveller in India: you may meet your end whether you are on foot, or in a bus, train or plane.

But why is there such disparity between compensation given to families of victims depending on their mode of travel? How does death on an aeroplane warrant such a huge compensation than death in a train or bus?

Is there a “class” bias even in death?

Does an air victim enjoy a higher “status” than a train or bus victim?

Is it because an air accident involving “people like us” gets more coverage, with glib relatives narrating their tale of woe on national television?

Death is death, regardless of the mode of accident but there is no comparison in the compensation handed out.

Are we applying different strokes to different folks?

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14 Responses to “In death, as in life, is there a “class” bias?”

  1. Ramesh Raghuvanshi Says:

    This is a well known fact that we Indians are blind followers of western norms.If west paying handsome amount to victims in air crash why should not we?. Air travelers are from rich community we to pay them more.Those who are travel in train, bus,they are poor why should we care from them?

  2. Super Nan Maga Says:

    Yes the rate card for lives in our Bharath desh is based on class. However there is no value for Life.

  3. MM Chishty Says:

    A clarification:

    The compensation of Rs 75 lakhs given to the next of aircraft victims is the effect of insurance surcharge which is collected along with the aircraft ticket. The Kerala High Court judgment only iterated that there can be no discrimination in paying compensation among aircraft passengers when all had paid the same insurance surcharge [Air India had sought to give lesser insurance bonus to the kin of those deceased who in its opinion were doing low income jobs]. The kin of the deceased are free to sue AI in a civil court for over and above what they have got as insurance bonus.

    With respect to the Railways, the compensation announced by Mamata Bannerjee is only ex gratia; more is due to the kin of the deceased from the Railway Tribunal. Same is the case with KSRTC. Yeddyurappa has announced only ex gratia compensation. Kin of the deceased (bus passengers) are entitled to the bonus of Rs 2 lakh, which is due to the insurance surcharge of Rs 1 paid on every KSRTC ticket (next time, read the KSRTC ticket carefully, one rupee has been collected as insurance surcharge). Over and above this, they can move the Motor Accidents Tribunal for more damages against the insurer, and the sky is the limit for damages awarded.

    So you can conclude that in some way, the train and bus passengers can consider themselves privileged to be getting ex gratia compensation, which the aircraft passengers have not!

  4. austere Says:

    I would wonder about the insurance of planes and trains– is there a difference? maybe the final payer and sum assured are a factor.

    Gross, but yes, this is the way life is. I have seen patients sent to govt hospitals from private hospital ICU units cause their money ran out.

  5. Objectivist Mantra Says:

    Of course, there is a class bias. But the bias between a plane passenger and one who travels in train is still very, very small. It is hardly worth considering.

    Few wads of paper money, here or there, what does it matter!

    The biggest and the most obnoxious bias in India is the one of surnames. A person with right pedigree and surname is like a demigod in this country, everyone else is the “aam admi” fit to be a NREGA worker.

    There is also a bias between the political elite and everyone else. You can put a monetary value to the life of “aam admi” whether in lakhs or thousands of rupees. But the political elite are like demigods, they are they nation.

    At least, they think that they are the nation. India could be a country with maximum number of political dynasties. Perhaps on this account we can make it to the Guiness book of world records.

    This is the kind of bias that we need to fight.

  6. harkol Says:

    Again this is a wrong question to ask. First of all a international flight charges a lot of money, and the guys who loose life as a matter of pilot error need to be compensated proportionately, that’s why Air India tried to do. But, then the Kerala Court ruled that Air India being a signatory to Montreal convention can’t escape paying as per that.

    There is no such convention in case or train/bus travellers. Besides, the service is cheaper, thus proportionate compensation does come in to picture.

    This is not exactly a class system. Just economics & law.

  7. Gaampa Says:

    Buddy…. the type of insurance the vehicle/train/plane has for its passengers factor the payout in case of an accident. Its elementary. Didn’t they teach this in school????

  8. T Azeez Luthfullah Says:

    Yes. Agreed. You cannot imagine an India where there is no discrimination based on class, caste, religion etc.
    You might have noticed that not a single murderer of a Muslim in India has been convicted and punished. You cannot say on the contrary.

  9. RowdyRanga Says:

    The Rate Card is based on the investment you made for your travel. so that falls in line with the compensation. As fare as value for life..Zero….we have a billion to count a few hundreds or thousand will not make any difference.

    These Ministers have no accountability and when they assume office the next stop is a temple and making hefty donations to the almighty to make sure that they do not forsee any iissues or prblems while they are in power. I wish they could do the same in their job and know that prevention is better than cure …with this attitude if they could fix things it would benfit them but now a days everything seems to be like 20 20 go out there make much as you can and retire.

  10. Faldo Says:

    There is no doubt death is death but as regards to the author’s poser @Chisthy, @Gaampa and Harkol have answered the question adequately.

    In addition, I would like to mention that air travel with all its problems has a relatively better safety record. Train travel comes next and then comes road travel. Moreover the safety regulations for air and train travel are more stringent as compared to road travel. Air passengers pay their “insurance” charges with their travel costs, so are entitled to receive adequate compensation in case of death of the traveler.

    Rail and road passengers without paying insurance costs, do receive ex-gratia payment. Is there a suggestion that the railways and road transport companies also collect an insurance premium, so passengers could be compensated on a similar scale to air travelers.

    How about this (tongue in cheek) – Would the public be willing to consider paying an insurance surcharge to the government for ‘nataraja service’ (walking on the road), so pedestrians are adequately paid in case of any unforeseen incidents? Maybe it could force the authorities to keep our roads safer. OTOH, it might also encourage some unfortunate hopefuls to flout safety norms and risk getting into an accident just to get some compensation.

  11. Vinay Says:

    Mullah LuthFullah:

    Shame on you. It is people like you, who bring in “Muslim” into every damn thing, who are the real problem. The Muslim community faces problems because of people like you, who roam around with a “persecution mindset”.

    Have some shame – learn to think beyond religion.

  12. K.Balasubrahmanyan Says:

    I agree.all victims’relatives shd get equal compensation.I do not know which law governs what ! bala

  13. Shrinivas Says:

    Something related to the topic in discussion titled “Jet asked to pay passenger” appeared in Bangalore Mirror on Aug 1st, 2011. It goes thus:

    “Jet Airways has been directed by a Delhi consumer forum to pay Rs 1.44 lakh as compensation to a flier for the “emotional setback” caused by the death of his two pugs on board. “The death of two pugs is a great material and emotional setback and loss to the consumer. Jet Airways must compensate the loss,” a bench of Delhi District Consumer Forum, headed by its president C K Chaturvedi, said.”

  14. Ajji says Says:

    Lo Ramu… ashtu gottiLva niNNge. The airline and train ticket fares include insurance coverage which is decided by the carriers. Hence the payout is more. Nothing to do with class, religion or race.
    Also Indian Railways has a tiered system where the middle bogies are the safest and hence carry the highest paying passengers — Air Con class, reserved class bogies are located in the middle of the train to ensure these passengers have more protection for having paid more Rs.

    Pedd mundeDakke yenu baralla. Blaagu geegu antha bareetha saaYthane.

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