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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Puttingal temple tragedy ~ some insurance angle !

For one used to visiting divyadesams and other important temples of Madras, the temples of Kerala are different – different in architecture, religious practices and more .. and you see so many big temple elephants.

The Madras-Quilon line was extended to the capital of the Princely State of Travancore and this station existed in 1918 when the  Quilon - Trivandrum Central Metre Gauge Line was inaugurate.  This place was known for coconut oil, oil cake and coir industry – goods were transported by rail, boats (vallams) – reportedly  German and British bought Paravur made coir ropes for World War I- World War II.

Paravur is a  municipality in the Kollam district of Kerala. The lakes and sea coast of Paravur attract visitors and foreigners with the main attraction the interconnection of Paravur Kayal (lake) and the Arabian Sea.  There is famous ‘Puttingal Temple’ (Goddess on an ant hill – puttu in Malayalam for anthill!).  the annual festival is much attended event with fireworks (Matsara Kambam) and other events associated with the festival (Aswathi vilakku, Kathakali, Kampadikali, Marameduppu) taking place grandly. 

.. ..  this is no religious post, sadly, hundreds of lives have been lost in a fire accident ! it was of such a magnitude that hours  after a massive fire broke out at the temple on Sunday 10.4.16 -- in which 106 people died and more than 350 were injured, Prime Minister Shri  Narendra Modi reached the spot with a team of 15 doctors from Delhi.  Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and state Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala took the Prime minister around the temple precincts and briefed him on the incident. Later, PM Modi visited the district hospital and met the injured.

Sometimes it is better not to see the news or read papers after such tragedy. Kerala Police on Monday detained five people who were involved in conducting the firework display after a huge fire broke – sure there would be more blame game.  Poor safety planning and lack of governmental accountability is nothing new, yet  the tragedy in the Puttingal Devi temple is a complete shocker. The death of more than a hundred people and injuries caused to scores by explosions in a storehouse, was a result of gross negligence, a combination of appalling carelessness and a reckless disregard for the safety of others. That the deadly blaze was triggered by a display of fireworks that were set off despite permission having been refused by the District Collector raises serious questions about the actions of the organisers. What is equally surprising is the failure of the police to implement the decision of the district administration, writes one newspaper and you know who ?  Political parties will not  refrain from trying to extract electoral capital from the tragedy in poll-bound Kerala — it is important that the truth is not crowded out by the noise. A case has already been registered against the temple committee and the contractors hired for the fireworks; at the same time, the Kerala government has ordered a judicial inquiry !
photo source : New Indian Express

Away from the melancholy, here is some insurance angle read in Indian Express, Chennai edition.  A fire insurance of a meagre `1 crore and a public liability insurance of `5 lakh for two days, was all that the Puttingal temple administration in Kollam, took, where more than 112 people were killed in the fire cracker tragedy in the wee hours of Sunday. More than 350 people were injured and 500 houses destroyed at Puttingal tragedy. The amount spent for the fire display at temple is estimated to be `10 lakh. The amount spent to buy the insurance cover is about `50,000.

The policy taken by the temple from the Kollam office of New India Assurance Company is insufficient to cover even the damages. Further, since firecrackers were stored without permission, claim settlement could get delayed ! “The victims can make claims from three sources. First from the temple authority, secondly if anyone files a PIL in the court and third compensation declared by the state,” said Delhi based insurance expert Vipul Soota, co-founder of Learning Enablers, an insurance education portal.  Many of the 105 major and small temples in Kerala are not insured or under-insured during the festival days. Thiruvananthapuram has 27 major temples and Alappuzha 15. “Generally these occasions are gravely under-insured,” said Viswanathan Odatt, Managing Director, Aims Insurance Broking Private Ltd.

Often fire display in temple festivals in Kerala are conducted with no insurance cover or for pittance. “The insurance is taken, with a limited view—to get the approval for conducting fire display from the authorities,” said a senior executive of New India Assurance Company. “The amount is too small when compared to the damages and loss of life. The only hope is the ‘waiver’ clause in the case of the insurance policy which allows the insurance company to decide whether to give the insurance amount or not,” said Ramachandran Nair, Administrative Officer, New India Assurance Company.  “Taking fire and public liability insurance for temple festivals and church feasts in the state should be made mandatory and properly insured,” says Sushil Kumar, an LIC agent who has worked in the region for more than two decades, adding the people here have more than one life policy.

I never knew that these are being insured – whether your Company would be willing to cover this, after reading accidents like this, is well known ! … a day  after the temple tragedy, in which the death toll rose to 109, three cars laden with explosives were seized by the police about 500 metres away from the Puttingal Devi temple  adds a new conspiracy angle. City Police Commissioner P. Prakash is quoted as saying that the cars, found parked near the temple, came to the notice of the local people late on Sunday. They alerted the police. On Monday morning, the police cordoned off the area and examined the cars, which were found packed with explosives, some of which were of high intensity. Since the State police did not have the expertise to defuse them, the task was  assigned to experts of the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation camping at Paravur for the investigation into Sunday’s explosions. Mr. Prakash said two of the cars carried Kollam registration numbers and one Thiruvananthapuram. Their ownership was being verified with the Transport Department.

Makes a sad reading indeed !

With grief- S.Sampathkumar

12th Apr 2016

1 comment:

  1. Quite an exhaustive coverage with valuable information on the insurance angle too!
    Sadly reflects the administrative lapses and also the tardy responses during such tragic emergencies. Recent bridge collapse and the precious lives lost in Kolkatta too will affirm the need to revamp the swift response the key government agencies to atleast rescue the injured and render immediate medical assistance. Again, in our country choppers are meant for CM's usage alone, never used as an air-ambulance. In abroad, even animals are rescued through chopper services. Pity here, our people do not seem to enjoy the status enjoyed by the animals there.
    Picking up from your insurance angle, it is high time, both Fire and Liability insurance is mandatory for a higher coverage amount by the authorities concerned. In our locality, the police department while issuing the explosives license to the shopkeepers during Deepavali eve insist only for Fire policy.
    Sharing your grief and looking forward to the times our folks get to treated humanely at all times!