Shrine insurance is big business
08 Jul, 2013 01:01 PM
Indian insurers provide temple insurance that covers losses due to flood, fire, earthquake and even loss due to theft of idols, ornaments, hundi and crowns and even the golden covering on domes. These are normally customised covers under property insurance.

In the case of Uttarakhand, insurers state none of the temples opted for a comprehensive cover and the policy possibly extends to cash offerings (loss of money in transit from the temple to bank due to floods, burglary etc) and covers for gold and other jewellery on the idols.

Some rich temples like Tirupati and Shirdi are early movers with the temple boards of the respective shrines opting for a cover. United India Insurance is currently providing temple covers to Tirupati, Shirdi, SriKalahasti (or the Rahu Ketu temple near Tirupati), Guruvayur temple (Kerala), Kanaka Durga temple (Vijayawada) and Golden temple at Amritsar.

"In the case of Tirupati and Shirdi, the TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams) and the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust have also taken personal accident covers for pilgrims due to accidents in the shrine," Milind Kharat, chairman and managing director, United India Insurance said. In case of Shirdi, the personal accident cover is limited to 25 unnamed pilgrims while in case of Tirupati the personal accident cover is more comprehensive which includes death due to accident within seven kms of the temple area.

While Kharat refuses to divulge the size of cover, such policies can run into a few crores of rupees considering the wealth associated in such shrines in the form of ancient idols, ornaments, crowns adoring the deity and other cash offerings. Insurers state covers for the biggest temple in India can be as high as Rs 500 crore. But this is still miniscule when compared to the wealth of the Vatican whose investments into banking, insurance and property is said to run into few billions.

But arriving at the cover value can be a tricky affair. "Insurance can only cover the agreed value. In case of temples, this would include the actual cost of building the structure all over again. Things like mythological value of the shrine and some ancient sculptures in the pathways may not get a cover," Rahul Aggarwal, chief executive officer of insurance advisory, Optima Insurance Broking, said. However, idols can be insured as the value of antique pieces like a Shaligram Vishnu idol or a Spatika (crystal) Shiva linga in an ancient temple can be ascertained from international auction houses.

In the past, there have been attempts at comprehensive temple insurance covers, one that included personal accident covers for pilgrims who undertook treks to Amarnath (J&K) and Sabarimala (Kerala). "These covers mainly covered any loss arising due to stampede and any other accidents at the temple venue. Major temples are thronged by devotees and chances of injury are also higher," a senior official from Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.

Personal accident covers for pilgrim at temple sites are in nature of a group accident policy that can even cover death or disability due to injury at the temple. In case of any eventuality, temple authorities are expected to forward the list of devotees registered at the ticket counter to insurance companies for claim settlement. Annual premiums on such policies are currently Rs 50 per lakh.

Apart from the cash rich temples who can afford to opt for a cover, insurers say some temples are opting for a terrorism cover especially those located in border areas. "The terrorist attack on Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar and the fiyadeen strike on the Raghunath temple in Jammu about a decade back opened the doors for insurance covers in a big way," said an insurer who did not want to be named.
Source : The Times Of India

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