For Jayaprakash G, it was an idea born out of a twin tragedy.
Two years ago, a couple of young men of Kalangumukkal ward of Kollam district’s Punalur Municipality drowned in the Kalladayar river. Both sole breadwinners, their deaths financially crippled their respective families.
The plight of the families set Jayaprakash, councillor for Kalangumukkal ward, thinking of possible solutions. And the idea he came up with was to have every member of his ward insured against accidental injuries and deaths.
It was a tough ask, but Jayaprakash’s doggedness helped as he approached one uninterested insurance firm after another, till one of them — United India Insurance — finally agreed.
On Tuesday, 16 May, his persistence paid off when Kalangumukkal became the first municipality ward in the state to have all its citizens aged between 5 and 70 covered by insurance.
“I am very happy I could play a part in this initiative and become the first to do it,” Jayaprakash told South First.
United India Insurance’s Punalur branch manager Rajan Varghese said his company, too, was delighted to be part of the unique initiative.
“We have received numerous enquiries from people asking about the implementation of similar insurance schemes in their localities. However, these are still in the discussion stage and may take more time to implement,” Varghese told South First.
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The numbers in Kalangumukkal ward
There are 1,381 residents in Kalangumukkal ward between the ages of 5 and 70. All of them now have insurance cover against accidental injuries and deaths, courtesy of United India Insurance.
At a premium amounts as low as ₹100 per year, the residents will receive ₹1 lakh for loss of life due to an accident and compensation for injuries based on their gravity.
While the scheme was inaugurated with much fanfare by former Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly and senior congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, it was no cakewalk for Jayaprakash.
“When we approached different insurance companies, most of them were unwilling to do it. Finally, United India Insurance said they were ready do it, but when things were in the final stages, they said they would not be able to do it,” he said.
The company declined to provide insurance on the ground that, as per the law, a ward councillor doesn’t have the authority to back people’s insurance.
“A person running a factory can insure his employees, but a councillor is not an owner, so he cannot. Also since 1,381 people were involved, the company thought it might prove too risky a venture as the total liability would be ₹13.81 crore,” said Jayaprakash.
But with some persuasion, the insurance firm finally agreed and the premium for each individual between the age of 5 to 70 was fixed.
“The interesting part is that the premium amount is so low that people wondered why we could not have done something like this at a larger scale long back,” said Jayaprakash.
According to Varghese, the documentation of 1,381 individuals in a short span was a challenge, especially as the cover provided in Kalangumukkal was unique scheme for the company.
“Senior officials of my company are enquiring with me about the details of this project. They hope take up similar initiative in other parts of the country,” he told South First.
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Initiative becoming a movement
According to Jayaprakash, any individual can opt for the scheme and he now getting numerous inquiries from other wards after the programme was launched on Tuesday.
Many panchayath presidents, especially, are contacting him, hoping to make their panchayath the first to provide insurance cover to all its residents.
The amount of inquires he has been receiving has Jayaprakash believing that the idea will catch on very soon and would end up becoming a people’s movement.
“This could really become a movement. The insurance company is also thrilled about the initiative and they are also getting a lot of similar enquiries,” said Jayaprakash.
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Plea to government
Meanwhile, Jayaprakash has a suggestion for the government of Kerala.
Despite the goodwill generated by the scheme, many panchayaths have this hurdle of spending money on insurance coverage from funds allocated for other projects. Jayaprakash suggests that the Kerala government should fund the insurance scheme.
“The government should take the initiative and provide funds to the panchayats… The problem that they face is they cannot use their funds allotted for other projects for insurance coverage. The government should give it a thought and give a guideline for LSGs (local self-government bodies) to emulate us and spread the scheme across the state,” Jayaprakash said.
Perhaps the government will consider the idea. According to Jayaprakash, a few government officials have contacted him to know about the implementation of the insurance coverage scheme.
Jayaprakash firmly believes that if a person falls sick with a serious illness or meets with an accident, society has the moral responsibility to take care of that person.
“At the moment, only the rich and developed nations can afford to give free medical treatment to people. But if we could arrange insurance cover for our ward residents, they would have a sense of security,” he added.