Compensation sought for Blueline victims

February 19th, 2008 - 10:15 pm ICT by admin  

By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) As Blueline buses continue to kill innocents in the Indian capital with impunity, rights activists are urging the authorities to pay compensation to families of the victims. An organisation that brings together families affected by the recklessness of the privately owned “killer buses” is calling upon the government to come to the aid of the bereaved families.

Although the government is under no obligation to do that under the law, there has been at least one precedent.

In October 2007, when a speeding Blueline bus mowed down seven people in Badarpur area in south Delhi, the Delhi government promptly announced Rs.100,000 to each of the distraught families.

Now People’s Action, an NGO, says this must become the norm.

“The apathy of the government towards the victims of Blueline buses is deplorable as the buses are licensed by the state,” said Sanjay Kaul, president of the association of the families of Blueline victims.

“The Delhi government was prompt in declaring ex gratia compensation to the kin of the seven killed in Badarpur. It is only when the number of people killed is large that the government wakes up,” Kaul lamented.

People’s Action has appealed to the National Human Rights Commission, seeking an end to the “discriminatory attitude” of the Delhi government.

Under the Motor Vehicles Act, the government is not liable to compensate accident victims or their families.

“As per law, only the owner and the company insuring the bus is liable to pay compensation,” advocate Namita Rai explained.

The scenario is different in some countries. In Britain, the weather and the condition of the roads are taken into account while fixing responsibility for an accident, said Lokesh Kumar, a lawyer.

“If the government has failed to maintain the roads, the onus of the mishap lies with the state,” said Kumar.

With accident victims mainly left to fend for themselves in India, many lives get ruined, more so if the families are poor.

A fatal accident involving a Blueline led to a double tragedy here this week.

When Akhid Ali, the only breadwinner of his family from Bihar was crushed to death Sunday by a Blueline bus, his wife, unable to cope with the loss, hanged herself to death in the hospital, leaving behind their month-old child.

Experts say that even when compensation claims are processed, legal tangles often prolong the agony.

Following a Supreme Court ruling, now drivers of Blueline buses along with the bus owners are made a party in the accident case, said Kumar. But in most cases, the drivers simply run away, delaying the disposal of the cases.

Under the Motor Vehicles Act, in case death occurs due to the fault of the driver, the compensation is calculated on the basis of the life expectancy of the deceased multiplied by his income.

But compensation amounts calculated under the act, last amended in 1994, is generally very low.

Following a public outcry after a spate of Blueline accidents last year, the central government filed an affidavit in the Delhi High Court seeking amendments to the act to raise compensation amounts.

This has been approved by the Lok Sabha and is now pending in the Rajya Sabha.

Once this becomes law, Rs.100,000 would be given as compensation to families of victims who die in accidents, Rs.50,000 each in case of grievous injuries and Rs.25,000 each for minor injuries.

The victims can also claim third party insurance if the vehicle is insured.

The central government was also directed by the Delhi High Court to take into consideration the rise in cost of living while deciding the final amount of compensation.

Delhi has about 4,000 Blueline buses, which form an important part of its chaotic public transport system. Last year, the fleet caused about 120 deaths on the capital’s roads. This year, the figure is eight — so far.

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