In a major reprieve for eight poor widows from Ahmednagar, the South Mumbai District Consumer Forum, recently directed ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company to pay them Rs 1 lakh each as promised under the Farmers Accidental Insurance Scheme adopted by the state government.
The state had started the welfare insurance scheme in 2004, which gave insurance protection to families of poor farmers in case of accidental death of the earning member.
The widows – Nalubai Jathar, Kamlabai Khemner, Asha Pawar, Aruna Borhade from Sangamner Tehsil, Parubai Khamkar, Alka Thube from
Parner Tehsil, and Manda Khetmalis and Alpana Bhosale from Shrigonda Tehsil – had submitted the necessary documents to revenue officials in order to claim the insurance amount. The revenue officers forwarded the documents to the insurance company for the insurance amount – Rs 1 lakh for each of the widows. The company, however, did not decide the claims, which forced the women to approach the consumer forum for justice.
The company countered the complaints stating that in some cases, the women had not furnished the requisite documents and in some other cases claims were submitted belatedly.
The company maintained that according to the terms of the scheme, the applicants were required to submit their claims within 60 days of the accidental death of the farmer, and in most cases the claims were received belatedly. The bench of the forum president SB Dhumal and member SS Patil, however, held that delay in submitting applications could not be a reason for not deciding the claims of the widows. “Not deciding the claims amounts to deficiency in service,” the forum observed. The forum also referred to an earlier decision of the State Commission, which held that provision with regard to time limit could not be used to defeat a genuine claim.
Apart from the insurance amount, the widows had also sought compensation of Rs 20,000 towards mental agony. But, the bench reduced the amount to Rs 5,000 each considering the insurance company was also required to pay interest at the rate of 9% on the insurance amount.
Besides, the widows would also get Rs 2,000 towards cost of litigation.