Update August 2014:
Due to a recent Calcutta High Court ruling in Madhav Chandra Mondal v State of West Bengal and due to change in West Bengal State Disaster Management policy, compensation is now being granted to family members of persons who have died unnaturally by lightning strike. Do check this official website of West Bengal Disaster Management Department for regular update in this issue. Here’s the link to their official notices.
Compensation to victims of natural calamities in India is not uncommon and several state governments and the central government have formulated different schemes to help the legal heirs of people dying due to such tragedies.
In West Bengal there is an initiative to provide compensatory benefit to the legal heirs of the deceased persons died due to natural calamities and accidental fire.
Under such scheme issued vide Department Order No. 1667(40) FR dated 28th September 2006, the State Government of West Bengal has taken the initiative to provide monetary benefit of Rs. 50,000/- per death case to the legal heirs of the deceased.
However, vide Department Notification No. 1362(40)F.R./4P-3/04 dated 21st July, 2008, the Disaster Management Department of West Bengal has further notified that the compensation to be provided would be revised to Rs. 1 lakh instead of Rs. 50,000/- per death case and such benefit would also accrue upon the next of kins of the victims of snake bite.
A copy of the notification:
Such steps taken by the West Bengal government is truly laudable but the definition of natural calamities is open to varied interpretation and leaves much to the imagination. Although victims of snake bite and sun strokes are now being included within natural calamities, however a recent Calcutta High Court judgment in W.P. No. 20921 (W) of 2011 (Smt. Saraswati Panja vs. State of West Bengal and Ors.) has refused to extend the meaning to persons dying out of lightning strikes.
Recently, a similar provision for compensation of RS. 1 lakh was introduced in the State of Punjab effective from 1st April, 2012 for legal heirs of victims of snake bite. In fact, today, a victim of snake bite can receive upto Rs. 2 lakhs as compensation vide West Bengal Government order dated 8th September, 2009 for ex-gratia grant but the same is not true for people dying out of lightning strikes. A consensus is required for further clarification and universality in such rules for easy access to compensation for legal heirs of victims of such calamities in which they are made to suffer under no fault of their own.