Doha, 02 November 2010: The morning of thirteenth March 2008 was warm and pleasant in the desert kingdom of Qatar. Nevil Noronha, a 34 year old expat from Karkala, Karnataka reached his construction company after routinely dropping off his wife at the Hamad hospital where she nursed patients. Little did he know that on that ill – fated morning destiny would literally descend upon him in the form of an electric panel crashing on his abdomen, injuring his lungs and sending him into an instant blackout.
After battling for his life for four days in the intensive care unit of Hamad hospital Nevil left this world on the sixteenth of March leaving his utterly shocked wife and a clutch of grieving well wishers in utter dismay at his bedside. Two days and much procedural hassles later his body was flown to his native village where his parents were inconsolable at seeing the body of their bread winning son who had left the shores of the country in pursuit of better standards of life.
Thereafter began the long tale of follow up for his compensation by his friends in Qatar. First up, to their utter horror they discovered that the insurance policy under the Workmen’s Compensation Act had lapsed as the company had not paid the premiums in time. As the insurance company refused payment the onus of compensation shifted to the company. However the company officials started dragging the issue without any serious intent to compensate perhaps hoping that such procrastination would wear out the patience of people pursuing the matter.
Nevil’s friends however were made of sterner stuff and they chased the company relentlessly, even threatening legal action at one stage. They also registered a case with the Indian embassy in Qatar and Nevil’s legal heirs gave the power of attorney to the Embassy to fight their case. The Labour and Social welfare wing of the Embassy was highly co-operative in following up the matter with the company. Finally after two years of this multi-pronged pursuit the company agreed to offer compensation which was a huge relief to the wife and father of Nevil who were dependent on his income.
Lessons for the expats:
1. Workmen’s Compensation insurance protects businesses against employee death, bodily injury and illness arising out of work related exposures in accordance with the country’s Laws. In addition, the policy provides coverage for accidental medical benefits in private hospitals and clinics and also the associated costs such as claimants’ legal fees and the costs of defending the action. Sometimes statutory limits may not be enough in which case Companies with a large number of employees can buy larger limits of cover (excess liability). Do ensure your company is keeping the Insurance Policy alive.
2. Indian Embassy in Doha is extremely helpful in such times of difficulty. Once you arrive in Qatar, it is always desirable to register with the Embassy so when you are in distress, the officials can help you quickly.
3. Indian Community Benevolent Forum ( ICBF ) is a unique organization under the aegis of Embassy of India, Qatar which undertakes the noble task of providing succour and solace to the under privileged brethren in distress by way of providing financial, medical and various other assistances. ICBF Help Desk is manned on all seven days a week during the evening hours (6 to 8 PM).
4. Last but not the least keep up your effort for any just cause and you will realise there is light at the end of the tunnel, however long the tunnel or however arduous the journey may be.