Reading Jiban Patra’s sad story, one would conclude that our insurance companies have not thought on these lines; or if they do have a policy to cover such an eventuality, this must be made mandatory for all short-term travels abroad
Every year millions of people travel all over the world; and with the liberalization policy in vogue, millions of Indians travel abroad mostly for pleasure. Though one can guestimate that about 15% to 20% of them go for work.
While travelling to the US and Europe it has become mandatory for one's own safety to take a medical insurance due to exorbitant cost of hospitalization, should one unfortunately need such an attention.
Take the case of late Jiban Patra, a member of the Priyanka Chopra’s entourage, who, due to some reason was unable to go to Canada as he was unable to obtain a visa, breathed his last, and his body was discovered in the Los Angeles Hotel on 7th April.
Apparently, the Bollywood star and her troupe were unaware of his death until it was reported in the press, and the LA Police took up the issue of investigating the cause of his death, and the initial inquest has pegged the immediate cause of death as a heart attack.
Meanwhile, the body had to be retained in the LA mortuary. Although the police department had given clearance for the body to be returned to India, the process of documentation and the cost of transporting the mortal remains, estimated to cost some $15,000 has been the biggest hurdle.
Jiban Patra's family—his wife and two kids—living in Mumbai first had to take the shock of losing him but it must have brought more pain and anguish when the body was retained in the mortuary, with no one taking the responsibility to repatriate it to India. NRIs, mostly from Odisha, as Jiban belonged to this state, had to raise their voice, and the online community sought Priyanka Chopra to take the responsibility to arrange for the same.
Now, according to the media reports, Priyanka was able to obtain assistance from one of her friends, Uday, who was able to take up the issue through his legal advisor, as a sequel to which, she was able to plan her return to India.
Jiban Patra's body is expected to return to Mumbai this week.
This is not the first time that a travelling Indian has lost his/her life abroad. Though millions travel every day on short and long trips, death occurs and brings the tragic news to the family of the deceased. The cause of death could be many; local formalities, which vary from country to country have to be complied, some autopsy has to be performed, and those accompanying the person who passed away, are stranded and in great distress. Most of the time, language of communication also adds to the misery. Indian Embassies are generally helpful.
So, what can we do? Here are couple of suggestions for the recommendations and implementations:
a) Insurance companies which sell overseas medical policies, which are generally for a short term (duration of the trip only) should include “body return” clause, in case of ‘death’ by any means. Considering the fact that more than a million Indians travel abroad, a token increase by say Rs200 per policy should take care of this unfortunate event.
b) The Indian civil aviation authority should direct Indian air carriers such as Air India, Jet Airways, etc, to provide a special rate for such an eventuality. In fact, the civil aviation authority should be able to persuade the airline industry that they should extend a humane consideration to help the family of the deceased by carrying the body for free or for a specially reduced rate. $15,000 is an awfully big sum.
c) The Indian Embassy or Consulate concerned must depute a person, who is conversant with the local language, to assist the family of the deceased, if they are with him/her (family here would mean to cover those associated with the deceased in that trip).
Reading the Jiban Patra’s sad story, one would conclude that our insurance companies have not thought on these lines; or if they do have a policy to cover such an eventuality, this must be made mandatory for all short term travels.
It is now hoped that Priyanka would take care of Jiban Patra's family, and at least provide for educating his children, and provide a source of income for his wife.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
For democracy to flourish, a smooth functioning justice system is necessary. The efficiency with which the Indian judicial system works is disappointing. This has to do with the lack of judges, laziness of the courts and various other inefficiencies. Bhagvanji Raiyani, founder of the Forum for Fast Justice, explained all these problems and suggested the judicial reforms necessary to keep our country from descending into a state of chaos
Bhagvanji Raiyani is not a lawyer, but, even at 75, he is regularly arguing cases, having filed over 100 public interest litigations (PILs). In Moneylife Foundation’s seminar on Judicial Reforms: The Backbone of a Real Democracy, Mr Raiyani outlined the various problems that exist in the system and explained why the citizens of India shouldn’t just stand by and watch. He began the session by passing around a brochure that, aside from the history and plans of Forum for Fast Justice, contained a tally of the number of vacancies in the courts.
After letting the audience skim through the document for five minutes, Mr Raiyani said, “You can see in the brochure that 30% seats are vacant in the Supreme Court and high courts. The percentage is a little higher for the lower courts. For example, in Allahabad High Court, there are 160 vacancies, but only 34 judges are working. Who is responsible for filling up the vacancies? The judiciary itself. The Chief Justice knows, of course. For example, the Bombay High Court advertises positions in the lower courts in newspapers. In 2010, 100 vacancies were advertised and 100 judges were employed. Again in 2011, 100 positions were advertised, but only 40 were filled. For 2012, the number dropped to 55 out of 159 vacancies.”
Mr Raiyani says that despite being unable to fill up the positions on first attempt, no further steps are taken to ensure that the positions are taken. He says, “It’s just forgotten about by the judiciary, parliament and government. Something needs to be done. Another problem is that intelligent lawyers aren’t coming forward. One simple explanation is that the salaries are low. Pre-independence, the salary was Rs3,500. 20 years ago, the salary had been raised to only Rs4,000. Now it is high, at around Rs1 lakh, but that’s what intelligent lawyers earn in an hour. In the Supreme Court, lawyers charge Rs5 lakh an hour. So the salaries will need to be increased if we are to see intelligent people take up these positions.”
The Times of India recently published an article claiming that 3.3 crore cases are pending in the courts. It projected that this figure would increase to 15 crore by 2040. Mr Raiyani says that with so many cases pending and so many positions vacant, judges are severely overworked. He said, “In 2001, the Judges Association of India filed a PIL about their workload. They said that they couldn’t handle the crores of pending cases. In the UK, it said there were 51 judges per million people. In Canada, it was 75, in the US, 117. In India, the figure was merely 10.6 judges to a million people. They got a favourable order. The number was to be increased, but nothing has happened. There are so many vested interests that the end result seems unattainable. The Supreme Court is sleeping, the lawyers don’t want this either.”
As the founder of the Forum for Fast Justice, Mr Raiyani has been campaigning for judicial reforms for several years now. He said, “There is so much that is wrong with the system. For example, divorce cases of Muslims and Christians are handled by the high courts. All divorce cases must only be decided in the family courts. The high courts must handle appeals. Another problem is that most courts work only one shift. Some start at 11am and end at 5pm. Their productivity could be doubled. The nation needs the judges to work more.”
Justice Krishna Iyer, one of the most eminent judges produced by India, has said that even kirana shops are more organised than the lower courts. Mr Raiyani said, “If you go to the courts you’ll find that much is in disarray. Judges who have been transferred to another court still have notice boards, litigants aren’t informed of changes in timings or holidays.”
To what was being said about inefficiency in the courts, some lawyers present in the crowd took offence. Advocate Bapoo Malcolm, who delivered Moneylife Foundation’s last seminar, on Wills and Nominations, said, “Our courts aren’t perfect, but it is wrong to berate the judiciary in this fashion. The very reason we can sit here and talk about this is because our judiciary is protecting what is enshrined in our Constitution.”
Shailesh Gandhi, former Chief Information Commissioner, also discussed the problems in our judicial system, focusing on the unchecked granting of stays and adjournments. Lastly, Mr Raiyani answered the questions posed by one participant interested in filing a PIL himself. The question was regarding the costs of filing a PIL. Mr Raiyani said, “The cost of a PIL is insubstantial. You need stamps worth Rs250. Once this is done, you can argue the case yourself. If you wish to withdraw the case at any time, you can do so.”
The youth was arrested by a team from Delhi with the help of local police. The accused, who had come to Muzaffarpur by a train from Delhi, was traced after tracking his mobile phone location
A 25-year-old youth allegedly involved in the rape of the five-year-old girl in the national capital was arrested early this morning, police said.
Manoj Kumar was apprehended from Chiknouta, his in-law's village, at around 2.00am from Muzaffarpur in Bihar, about 50 km from Patna.
The youth was arrested by a team from Delhi with the help of local police. The accused, who had come to Muzaffarpur by a train from Delhi, was traced after tracking his mobile phone location, police sources said.
Kumar had married recently and his wife had come to her parent's place two days back. The accused, working as labourer in Delhi, is a native of Bharphua village of the district.
Kumar allegedly raped five-year-old girl at his rented accommodation in east Delhi's Gandhi Nagar.
The girl and her family stayed in the same building where Kumar lived. Delhi police has registered a case and slapped charges of attempt to murder and rape among other things on Kumar, who allegedly confined the girl in his room for at least two days.
The girl, who was reported missing from 15th April evening, was rescued on 17th April morning from the ground floor of the building. The victim is battling for life in AIIMS hospital in the national capital after she contracted infection from foreign objects inserted into her body.