The horrific tragedy that took place in Nithari has been reported in various news agencies such as the Times of India and rediff.com and some bloggers have also presented their opinions - one of the illustrious denizens of the blogosphere is
The government is now giving each of these poor families Rs. 5 lakhs (5,00,000) as ex-gratia. Now, one can understand if compensation or ex-gratia is paid to workers of a factory who have met with an on-the-job accident or to people who have lost everything in a natural disaster. That money is meant to help the devastated families rebuild their lives and stand on their own feet. It does not certainly mean that the loss of human life has been made up for. In the former case, it is also a liability cost borne by the employer.
But, what do you do when a child has been killed? That, too, by a criminal? Will paying Rs. 5 lakhs in any way mitigate the grief and loss of those hapless parents?
If I were a poor parent whose child was a victim of a well-publicised crime and I received an amount of money that is quite an amount by my standards, would I feel guilty about using it for my own betterment or for my loved ones? Legally, a child cannot really be an earning member of a family so what does this ex-gratia mean? The parents may still continue to live but for many, that life would seem bleak and empty.
Money to a dead child's family seems like weighing the child's life and worth in terms of money, the possibilities of what he/she could have blossomed into, is reduced to an economic statistic. Another reason could be that the government is apologising for the gross negligence in handling the case due to which many preventable deaths occurred. In that case, these families should be suing the government. Even in that case, the people in charge will only feel the pinch when the mooolah comes from their own pockets. They usually get away lightly, emptying the public coffers while merrily ignoring their own incompetence. What we really need is a better law and order system with more sensitive and responsible, honest police officers, those who don't
harass family members of victims when they approach them for help.
Secondly, the Nithari case is now well-publicised as it is a shocking, unheard-of case with crime being committed on a large scale. Hundreds of children and adults are unfortumate victims of terrible crimes in our society. If this is what we do in one case, then all those families deserve ex-gratia. Police negligence, after all, cannot be unique to only this case.
Thirdly, there are some situations where you cannot blame the government or even the society for what has happened. Natural disasters are one such instance. But, the compensation given to those families is for an entirely different purpose. It is more under the category of aid. As for victims of riots, well, society and the state can prevent them or at least control them after they have broken out. But, individual crimes? Some person kills someone, out of mental disease or malice or pure accident. Neither the state nor society can always prevent that. They are not obliged to pay for it and cannot possibly do so for everyone. What they can and should do is take steps to nab and prosecute the culprits and deliver justice to the families.