Insurance News: Finance Ministry, insurance sector mull catastrophe pool

Cyclone Nilam has brought the insurance industry and the finance ministry closer on an agreement to set up an exclusive catastrophe pool to cover the losses that occur in natural disasters. Once implemented, a large percentage of house owners across India will have to start paying a premium towards the insurance cover with the balance being financed by the Central or state governments.

The proposal for an insurance catastrophe pool (INCIP) could cost up to Rs 5,000 crore if applied across India but will bring down the present undefined bill to rebuild lives after the catastrophes, providing a big comfort to citizens, the government and the insurance sector.

The proposal submitted by the industry through the General Insurance Council, the representative body of the general insurers envisages a pool on the lines of the Terror Pool and Third Party Motor Pool (now converted into a Motor Third Party Declined Risk Insurance Pool).

“The national reinsurer GIC Re will also submit its own proposal to tackle the reinsurance side of the proposed pool,” a senior GIC official confirmed. As per the proposal, there should be a standalone policy covering all natural catastrophe perils with the benefit of cover going to those or their kin who are directly affected by the disaster. The plan has been floated by the insurance regulator since at least 2007, but has got deferred over administrative issues.

Once implemented, India will join several countries like Turkey, Norway and others which have set up such funds to share the cost of reconstruction after large scale disasters. Cities like New York too are now planning similar policies to cover its inhabitants. Typically policies taken out by individuals do not cover such calamities, excluding them under the clause “act of God”.

“The policy is to be issued to Government of India covering all citizens of India and each insurer should be allocated 25 districts to charge premium on behalf of INCIP and administer claims in the event of a natural disaster. The last census data (2011) shall be the basis for arriving at the number of families and the premium will be multiplication of National Rate and the number of families,” the proposal says.

The coverage should be for damage to property and loss of lives due to national catastrophic accidents. The sum insured should be mentioned separately for kutcha construction (say Rs 50,000 per house and Rs 10,000 for contents) and pucca construction (say Rs 100,000 for house and Rs 25,000 for contents). For loss of lives the sum insured could be fixed at Rs 1,00,000 per life (maximum 4 per family), it says. Ration card should be the proof of family and should form the basis

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