The 20 households that lost all their belongings to the fire at Lungtenphu and Changjiji in Thimphu could have comfortably recovered from the losses, replenished their homes with personal belongings, and rebuilt their lives if they had had Household Insurance.
For as little as an annual premium of Nu 635, a household could have recovered their personal belongings, such as furniture, electronics, fixtures, fittings, clothing, and jewellery. Most importantly, they would have been able to rebuild their lives without any financial losses.
But unfortunately, none had insured their household with us.
Fire in Lungtenphu and Changjiji in Thimphu left around 20 households homeless and their properties damaged on the 9th of March, 2023.
Within hours, the fire had spread to the neighbouring Changjiji National Housing Development Corporation Ltd. (NHDCL) colony, damaging five blocks of buildings.
Media reports indicated that most families from the makeshift army camp lost all their belongings as the fire raged through the makeshift camps. Some occupants from the NHDCL also lost all their belongings.
While most families lost their belongings, none seemed to have insured their properties and belongings.
Records with our General Insurance Department indicate that besides the NHDCL — no damage compensation was provided — for the fire victims at the NHDCL Colony or Lungtenphu Army Camp occupants.
Except for the partial building damage compensation of Nu 4 Million to NHDCL, no household damage claims were intimated from the affected army camp or the NHCDL Colony, confirming that none had insured their homes or households with us.
But how insuring a household with us could be helpful to tenants and homeowners?
What is Householder’s Insurance? Why homeowners and tenants alike should have Householder’s Insurance? How does it even help households?
Household Insurance is the insurance of household contents for homeowners and tenants. With Householder’s Insurance, homeowners and tenants can insure their personal belongings. They can insure everything from a needle to furniture, television, refrigerator, washing machine, bedding, kitchenware, and jewellery.
As a package policy, Householder’s Insurance also covers burglary and personal accidents. Any loss of property and injury to the insured and their family members will also receive compensation under the policy.
The Householder’s Insurance consists of three (3) different Plans, which one can buy based on one’s ability to pay.
Plan A comes for a sum insured of Nu 100,000 at an annual premium of as little as Nu 635. The policy covers fire and allied perils. So if someone has Householder’s Insurance Policy Plan A, the person shall receive compensation of up to Nu 100,000 for loss in the event of fire and earthquake. If the insured/insured’s family member is injured, Nu 25,000 shall be provided as personal accident coverage. The plan also covers burglary for monetary compensation for theft and housebreaking.
Plan B of Householder’s Insurance offers a better option with a Sum Insured of Nu 200,000 with a better offer of personal accident coverage of Nu 50,000. All this can come for just Nu 1,270 per year.
Plan C is the premium option of the three Householder’s Insurance Policy offers. At Nu 1,905, the option provides the highest Sum Insured of Nu 300,000 and personal accident and burglary coverage of Nu 75,000.
But despite being marketed for several years, Bhutanese have shown a lukewarm response to Household Insurance.
Five months since the fire at Lungtenphu, ten (10) tenants of the NHDCL in Phuentsholing who lost their personal belongings to floods on the 13th of July 2023 are still waiting for compensation from somewhere. Most tenants shared stories of losing all their belongings, including washing machines, refrigerators, televisions, furniture, bedding, and clothes. Some claimed to have lost household items worth Nu 300,000.
Some tenants ended up with just the clothes they were wearing. All the affected families belonged to the low-income group. Many worried that it would take years for them to re-coup everything they lost in the floods.
The flood damage assessment was forwarded to the Dungkhag. But the tenants are yet to hear from the officials. The media also reported that though the tenants lived in its apartments, NHDCL cannot compensate since none of the tenants had insured their belongings.
All these incidents should serve as a wake-up call to people and the government alike to realize the importance of ensuring home and belongings.
But whose responsibility is to help people understand the importance of insuring home and household belongings?
Helping people understand the importance and the need to insure their lives and properties is the responsibility of every Bhutanese. Family members, relatives, building owners, communities, gewog, dzongkhag, ministries, corporations, agencies, and employers all have a role and a responsibility here. Because when disasters strike, everyone is affected, including families, communities, employers, and the nation as a whole.
Hence, educating the importance is a collective responsibility of every Bhutanese, including the government. For instance, at the gewog and dzongkhag, leaders can put in place policies to help people insure their homes and properties. Similarly, Gewogs could even use the Gewog Development Grant for insuring households and properties.
Similarly, corporations, armed forces, and employers could look into facilitating household insurance for their employees. While such a move will come at costs, the outcome the employers could reap from their employees for providing such incentives could however far exceed the costs.
The Department of Disaster Management could also collaborate with RICB to go beyond the sensitization programme to enhance preparedness, response, and resilience to disasters at community and individual levels.
The greater role, however, could be played by the news media to inform and educate people on the importance of keeping one’s home and properties insured. Educating and informing is where securing people’s homes and lives with household insurance can begin.