Purulia, May 17: A unique insurance scheme, in which the district forest office in Bankura played a major role, has come to the rescue of residents of 14 tornado-hit villages.
The insurance coverage has bailed out many villagers whose huts and livestock were destroyed in the tornado that struck on April 17.
Seven months ago, the district forest officer had, through the forest protection committees in twister-affected Joypur and Kotulpur blocks of Bankura, brought the villagers under the insurance cover.
Under the Tribal Policy of the National Insurance Company (NIC), the villagers were covered by a personal accident scheme that included indem-nity for losses suffered due to fire, storm, floods and earthquakes.
“We handed over cheques worth over Rs 4 lakh yester- day to about 400 claimants,” said D.K. Mitra, regional manager, NIC, Calcutta regional office II.
“We were able to process the claims within a month of the tragedy,” he said at the first meeting of the company’s agents in Purulia today.
Further payments will take place soon, the officer added.
Under the insurance scheme, the district forest office pays Rs 10 for each insured person, while the policy-holders, in this case the villagers, pay the remaining Rs 10 as annual premium.
“It is a unique scheme which we plan to extend to other districts,” Mitra said.
Two days after the storm struck, many of the villagers were worried about how they would rebuild their homes, as the relief department of the state government doles out only Rs 2,000 for each affected family.
This amount is clearly inadequate, given the extent of damage.
T.K. Adhikary, NIC deputy manager, Calcutta regional office II, said the villagers were at first sceptical. “Being a new scheme, they did not believe they would get the money, and that, too, so fast,” he said.
The insurance company has also recently begun a personal accident insurance scheme for women below the poverty line. The premium is being paid by the state government.
For the first time since the NIC began operations here in 1984, premium collection in Purulia district crossed Rs 1 crore in the last financial year, said S.K. Chanda, manager for the region.
“We are recruiting more agents and introducing new policies. There is a huge scope for increase in business, as only .4 per cent of India’s population has insurance coverage in some form or the other,” Chanda said.