Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mangalore Air Crash and Compensation Structures -

The disturbing incident of "Mangalore Air Crash" was followed by declaration of compensation for the families of crash victims. A compensation amount was declared by the aviation minister. According to experts, this compensation is based on standard compensation guidelines as prescribed by a protocol that deals with aircrashes when an airline taking off from one country crashes in another country while landing.

Insurance experts would suggest that the compensation should be based on income levels, level of damages caused by the accident. But is it the right approach of valuation basis for compensation measures of accident. The larger ethical question is that loss of human life should always be compensated in a similar way in a developed, progressive society irrespective of family and income background of victims. Loss of human life of a villager from Kosi flood is equally important as loss of middle income class citizen from a plane crash. Do we have valuation mechanisms in place in the country that designs compensation structures from natural disaster or accidents in a standardised way with a larger focus on the quality of human life dimension? This brings us to the question of estimating the value of a human life in a country like India. That value would definitely differ across the various segments of our Indian society. Its high time somebody undertakes an exercise of estimating value of human life in India across different societal strata. Once that exercise is being undertaken, the information could be centralised through electronic platform. Such data could be used by policy makers, number crunchers to design compensation structures that doesnot merely emphasize on income, damages but focuses largely on the valuation of a human life and its existence. So what is right now missing in the compensation structures of natural disasters, accidents is an ethical human rights based approach. Its high time that we move towards such rights based compensation structures as a step to move towards an egalatarian society where human existence from any part of the society is given an equal preference.

Once such an approach is introduced into the compensation structures it could create new dimensions for its applications even in the domain of adaptation measures required for addressing effects of human induced climate change on the society of developing and less developed countries. This becomes more crucial as many of these countries could be victims of human induced climate change in future if GHG emissions are not tackled and checked properly.

Mangalore air crash really sparked up a rights based thought process in compensation structures that could hold a key towards bringing fairer recognition of human life in comparison to what exists today.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Anando

    A very interesting piece and really made me think. The big question of course is should we put a value to human life. Wouldn't the entire exercise seem rather heartless? Even if we do need to agree on the 'right' compensation level, how would we define 'right'? Wouldn't a poor family whose sole breadwinner dies be deserving of a larger compensation as opposed to a millionaire who leaves his family a large sum? How do we resolve this?