Bhutanese lives are cheap

Bhutanese people may not like the heading above, but it is a fact of life.

Around 11 months ago on 3 March 2023 the nation was shocked as a helicopter crash took the lives of a mother and younger daughter.

The father and elder daughter were also in the same flight but they survived with trauma and injuries.

An official investigation has established human error and reckless flying as the cause of the accident.

This paper in early January 2023 in a detailed investigative story had warned about safety issues in the helicopter services and the potential for a crash due to them, but no heed was paid.

After the crash, it is good international practice for the airline concerned to help the victims process the insurance claims.

No such help was rendered to the father who is a farmer from remote Lunana. He and his two daughters are eligible to get USD 400,000 in total for the two deaths as per the insurance documents to be paid by international reinsurance companies through RICBL.

However, the two foreign companies hired a Singaporean legal firm to try and instead settle the claim for only USD 20,000 by using a Bhutanese lawyer and giving the farmer the misleading impression that the amount is the only thing he is eligible for.

It is galling that Druk Air did not fulfill its basic responsibility to help its passengers in this matter especially after two of them lost their lives in its helicopter.

Druk Air instead quietly processed and got the bulk of its claim for its chopper.

The USD 400,000 may sound high by Bhutanese standards but in countries like USA the compensation runs into millions of dollars. It is a matter of what value we place on Bhutanese lives.

The imagery could not be starker than a Lunap farmer against two international insurance giants trying to mislead him. It seems our system so far has stood in favour of the insurance giants.

The incident says a lot about us.

If you truly believe in the value of life, you care about all of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.
Joni Eareckson Tada

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