In theory, the price of a human life is priceless.
But in reality it is worth only Tk10,000 – in the eyes of our railway authorities. This is the amount that is given as a compensation to the family of a deceased person in a train accident.
According to the Railways Act, the liability of the railway administration cannot exceed Tk10,000 irrespective of any one person either for death or injury.
The amount of compensation was fixed in 1943 through an amendment to the Act of 1890. Around eight decades down the line the amount remains same.
Yet, it is a generous gesture of our railways minister who announced that the families of each of deceased persons in yesterday's horrific accident will get Tk1 lakh as compensation.
The tragic train collision killed at least 16 people and injured many others.
According to the existing law, the families of each of the deceased and injured in yesterday's accident are legally entitled to a maximum compensation of Tk10,000.
When the compensation amount was fixed during the British rule India was undivided. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh inherited the same railway law.
The amount of compensation was increased over the years in India. It now stands at Rs8 lakh. The family of a deceased person in a train accident gets the money.
A person facing a serious amputation, like loss of a hand or foot, loss of eyesight, severe facial disfigurement and suffering absolute deafness also gets the same amount of compensation.
The Indian government increased the amount of compensation in 2017 following a Mumbai High Court verdict that observed that the government must enhance the compensation taking into consideration the increased inflation rates.
Manzill Murshid, a Supreme Court lawyer, told The Business Standard that according to the existing law, the amount of compensation is very insignificant.
"If a goat dies in an accident, its value will be more than Tk10,000. But according to the Railway Act, the family of a deceased gets Tk10,000," he said.
"Now the ministry gives Tk1 lakh to the family of a deceased on humanitarian grounds.
"I think the minimum amount of compensation should be at least Tk8-10 lakh. The government will have to increase the amount of compensation by amending the existing laws.
"Otherwise, the affected families will continue to be deprived of their rights."
Barrister Abdul Halim, a Supreme Court lawyer, said, "The government is depriving the families of the deceased of their rights by giving them Tk1 lakh as compensation. It is a very small amount for an affected family.
"The amount of compensation should be on the basis of how many members of the family were dependent on the deceased's income."
Barrister Halim said the family members of the deceased should come to the High Court for fair compensation.