What Price Humans?

June 13, 2020

‘We are all humans, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same and worth saving’ – J K Rowling (born in 1965), British author best known for her Harry Potter books, in Deathly Hallows.

Railways came on the Indian scene around the middle of the 19th century. The rail-lines were not fenced off or gated. For the rural population, they were smoke and steam spewing mechanical monstrosities. The cattle of the farmers freely grazed along the railway tracks.

One day a cow was knocked down dead by a train when it had strayed on the tracks. The dead cow was tied to bamboo poles and carried to the nearest Railway Office and dumped before a railway official requesting compensation for the cow killed by the train.

It was the first such situation the official had faced. Initially rattled, the official went to the cupboard and pulled out a dusty manual. Sure enough, rules were governing such situations. But, since the document was in English, the official explained that the farmer had to pay a fine of Rs 500 for allowing his cow to trespass on railway property. Let us not tarry to speculate as to what happened next, because the amount involved would have been equal to today’s Rs 5,00,000.

Cut to May 8: A goods train ran over a group of migrant workers who fell asleep on the rail tracks killing 16 of them in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, in a tragedy that highlighted the plight of thousands of labourers hit by coronavirus lockdown walking long distances back to their native states.

Thousands of people die every year trying to cross the tracks even where foot over-bridges are easily accessible as in the case of Mumbai suburban railways. They are declared trespassers as was done in the case of the cow with which we started.

Again cut to May 22 when the 10th anniversary of an air-crash at Mangaluru International Airport was somberly marked. An Air India Express flight coming in from the Gulf crashed at dawn, engulfed in fire, killing 158 passengers.

Now comes the issue of compensating the survivors of those who died in the air-crash. Unlike the cow involved in the rail-accident 170 years ago, now compensation to air-crash victims is governed by some national/international protocols.

They say that money goes where the money is. Now it is also money goes where power and influence are. Some have accepted the modest compensation of Rs 2.5 crore and below, granted by the airline. In one case, a Bombay lawyer, Yeshwant Shenoy, secured a judgment from the Supreme Court of India awarding a compensation of Rs 7, 64, 29, 437 plus 9% interest per annum to the victim Mahendra Kodkani’s wife and children. That shows money goes where the money is and calls for fighting and financial holding power.

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response should be posted within four days of this publication. A new topic -essay would be offered for comments after a fortnight. Over to you.


I am pleased to welcome Daijiworld’s new columnist – John B Monteiro.

John’s link with DW goes back to the early years of this millennium when he walked into our office room in Divya Deepa Arcade at Bendoorwell Circle. When he first came, he knew little about news and feature websites – Though he had a considerable record of writing for the print media, besides being an author and a corporate professional.

Books authored by John

He continued to work with us when we moved to the commodious Emporium Building of Kankanady Circle. And he was with us when Daijiworld moved to Daijiworld Residency with its vast floor on Airport Road, opposite Bondel Church. Since we launched Daijiworld Weekly, with Hemacharya as Editor-in-Chief, he has been a regular contributor, even in its latest avatar as a digital monthly. My colleague Melwyn Rodrigues, director- operations, and I have had the pleasure of working with John as a prolific freelance writer.

Now, we are opening a new chapter with John coming in as a fortnightly columnist – Starting today. Our columnist will tell you what it is all about. I welcome and urge our readers to be part of this interactive column.

  • Walter Nandalike, Editor-in-Chief



By John B Monteiro
John B Monteiro (born in 1938) has written, and continues to write, extensively for websites, newspapers and magazines. His current mission is to be a link between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, garnering used toys in presentable condition to be presented to deprived and deserving kids in orphanages under the banner of Johnlyn Toy Exchange. Since 2002, he is the founder and anchor of the Bondel Laughter Club, which holds daily sessions (Mobile number: 9886276608).
To submit your article / poem / short story to Daijiworld, please email it to news@daijiworld.com mentioning 'Article/poem submission for daijiworld' in the subject line. Please note the following:

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Comment on this article


    Wed, Jun 17 2020

    John Monteiro does to our thought process what good whiskey does to conversation - it gets it going. 'What Price Humans?' is stimulating stuff. You don't just read it and toss it aside. The issues discussed and the questions raised keep rankling at the back of your mind. The article reminded me a story by E.M Forster (I can't for the life of me recall the title) in which a poor fisherman at sea rescues a man from drowning. He then decides to live in the same island as the fisherman, but wonders how much he should pay his saviour. The question is not easily answered. A token amount? All the wealth he possesses? What exactly is the price tag around a man's neck? In the end, our hero in the story pays nothing and continues to live on the island, held in contempt by all.

    I look forward to John providing me and his legion of fans with more subject we can address, argue about and hopefully, gain insight.

  • Gilbert Menezes, Moodubelle / Melbourne

    Wed, Jun 17 2020

    Dear Mr.Monterio, good topic to engage the readers! But this is a vast topic and one can go on to analyze many reasons for human apathy in any era in volumes, but I will touch upon only a few of them briefly! In today's world as per the Guardian report, 1% of the world 's richest people hold 50% of the world's wealth, whereas 800 million people go hungry to bed every night and during the Pandemic this number may have increased significantly. The world is struggling today due to greed for flesh, wealth, and power. Surely there is enough in this world for everyone to live happily, but not enough for every man's greed. Capitalism is no more working and we need to find new economic systems! Similarly, current political systems are giving rise to authoritative leadership and dynasty politics in many parts of the world! Societies are divided by religion and hatred and spirituality are fast eroding giving rise to impatience and suicidal tendencies.
    Indeed humans have lost whatever little value they have! What we need is the renewal of Spiritual, Political, Economic, and Social systems so that each and every human being is cared for and respected, given every opportunity to improve socioeconomically so that equality, peace, and prosperity prevails on this great planet giving equal value to every human!

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Wed, Jun 17 2020

    PS: An apology to Edwina who was cited as"Edwin" in my thanksgiving hurry.

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Tue, Jun 16 2020

    Roshni: Thank you for responding and your encouraging comments on the article. Socio-economic status translates to “money goes where money is”.
    William: Thanks for taking time off from your artistic pre-occupations to offer your sharp insights.
    I now sign off with renewed invitation to spare some time/thought every fortnight. The next date is 27/6/20 noon when Daiji will upload a new topic-essay for reader-response – God-willing.
    Thank you all respondents once again.

  • William Pais, Mangalore

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    John's article is mirror to the society. As a society it is our failure not to be sensitised to loss of human life. In the beginning of the mass exodus of walking migrants from cities, Supreme Court replying to petition on migrants said' we can't prevent anyone from walking' is the best example how even judiciary failed to be sensitive to the sufferings of citizens. Police have treated citizens like animals. They need to be held accountable. It is one thing to be enforcing rules and another thing to be violating citizens rights. Government departed from its resposnbility totally. Laws are not supposed to be helping the moneyed but they need to strengthen the weak and marginalised. The rich anyway will fight their space in lawlessness.It is the poor who need protection.

  • Roshni Amin, Mumbai

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    Well written article. Indeed the price of human life may quite depend on their socio economic status.

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    Zach: Thanks for your loaded one-liner. Adds to the count!
    Nitasha: As you say cow and human have their own value. The trouble is that we have low/no-value for humans. The challenge is to overcome this in concept and action.
    Anita: you have a concrete example of how the strong and corrupt exploit the weak and helpless. Recognizing this is the starting point and you have done this well.
    Sandra: “Survival of the fittest”. How to help people to be fit?
    Edwin: Thanks for your encouraging comment which will sustain me through this fortnightly journey.
    Vincent: Thank you for your heart-warming comments. I have a special affinity for this “Special” column and don’t miss any article/poem in this, including yours.
    Thank you all for your responses and please stay with the column every fortnight till it lasts - God-willing.

  • Vincent D'sa, Dubai,Shankerpura

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    Dear Mr.Monterio I am a regular reader of your articles and comment at times. ‘What price humans’ is a good article. Nice topic for discussion. As a counselor I hear many stories often. We should fight for our rights, no doubt in that. But it is not easy, lack of support, lack of resources, lack of proper knowledge and the system makes it very difficult. It is sad that a country like India which boasts about so much ‘religious wealth’ no one hears an ordinary persons cry for help.
    I too write on this forum. I see you as very resourceful person and expect more insightful writings in the new role. Good Luck.

  • Edwina Pereira, Bangalore

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    What Price Humans?succinctly points out the untenable reality of inequality, profits over people, marginalization of have-nots and general apathy about the worth of every human being. While some call these violation of rights karma or fate , others like this author Mr. Montero see it as it is. We cannot work for justice until we first see the issue clearly. Thank you for beautifully highlighting truth.

  • Sandra Miranda, Bantwal/Colaba

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    It is really sad that the world gets more and more insensitive to the plight of the poor. They are just a statistic and nobody really cares. The problem is so huge that even those of us who want to change things, find the task daunting.
    Sadly, government and big business only work to line their pockets and the common man is neglected.
    Darwin's theory rings true, 'Survival of the Fittest'.

  • Anita Fernandes, Mangalore/Mumbai

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    Nicely written, Mr. John Monteiro! I think in these situations, we have to make a choice on whether we accept whatever is handed to us or whether we want to fight. I feel really bad for the weak and downtrodden who have no means to fight for their rights. Take the recent cyclone in Raigad for example. Most of the villagers had the roofs of their houses blown off. Now, the politicians and,middle men will get their signatures/thumb impressions on forms and claim their compensation and keep it for themselves. That is the sad reality!

  • Nitasha, New Delhi

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    Dear Sir,
    Your post is indeed very thought provoking. What is the value one can ascribe to a life, be it animal or human. Is the value of a poor person less than that of a rich person ? A cow that perhaps helped feed a family is as important to them as any family member might be. But as it would appear, and as you have pointed out, when the loss is not our own, we assign value based on what already exists. And so, money goes where money is. It’s a harsh truth.

  • Zach, Mumbai

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    This is an accurate description of a lot of social problems and injustice packed into a simple, stimulating article

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Mon, Jun 15 2020

    Thank you all for responding.
    Ms. Precilla: Your response brings out the contrast between carrying the dead cow 170 years ago and now picking up near-dead from railway platforms and trying to establish contacts with the survivors – hopefully not to collect morgue charges.
    Ajai: Your Socratic question is very apt and relevant. It is more than “something to think”. I wish you had shared your thinking on this forum. Not late yet.
    Rohan: Your point about weighing and taking risks in life is well-taken.
    Mangalurian: There was a time when people used to say that fighting the government is like pissing in the sand – there is nothing to show for results. But, now governments are by far the largest litigant – dragged to the court by citizens. Courts have been largely ruling in favour of citizens.
    Good luck for your idea of ”Community Collective Fund” and you seem to be the right person to take the initiative to realize it.
    Please be with this fortnightly column with your responses.

  • Ajai, Mangalore

    Sun, Jun 14 2020

    Dear Sir, Darwin's theory says Survival of the fittest.But today's men of thought have collectively said ,Survival of the kindest.As people expand their knowledge, understand human rights and emptiness of this life they would ask better questions,find reasonably well solutions and overcome many biases of human thought.Your questions are valuable and thought provoking.Who is worthy of what and who decides this,based on what? Something to think.

  • Rohan, Mangalore

    Sat, Jun 13 2020

    Dear Sir.,
    Very thought provoking subject. What I feel is every activity is having risk involved so also travelling may it be any modes. Also crossing a railway line or road is having risk attached to it. When we decide to undertake any activity we accept the risks associated with it. Life is full of uncertain and risks and there is no guarantee of risk free life...

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Sat, Jun 13 2020

    A good thought-provoking article, Mr Monteiro. Thank you.

    "Money goes where the money is" is so true.

    A dreadful matter of money is that I guess at least 40% of the people never have any to spare, at any time.
    If salaried, they run out of it entirely by the end of the month.
    If daily-wagers, they run out of it by the end of the day.

    So, not everyone would want to fight against the Government or big businesses. Court cases can take for ever to resolve.

    My pet interest has been a 'community collective fund' - which could help every one. But having an idea is one thing (= costs no money), but struggling with an action plan is something else altogether!

  • Prescilla Fernandes, Mangalore

    Sat, Jun 13 2020

    Very interesting Monteiro Sir, your Railyway stories starting with mid 19th Century - cow knocked down dead by railway engine to running over and killing exhausted workers sleeping on the tracks in Maharashtra recently, Railways spend money to notify in newspapers about people dead under their jurisdiction. Now, take for instance, the advt. with photo in Indian Express (dtd.13.06.2020) “ An unknown male, 90 years shown in the photograph who was found under bad physical condition in Railway station platform, Thiruvanandapuram on 10.02.2020 was brought to General Hospital and died on 28.02.2020. In connection with, a case was registered at Railway Police Station as Crime No.24/2020 U/S 174 CPC. If anyone obtained the whereabouts of the said deceased person, please inform to the nearest police station or to the Govt. Railway Police Station. Likewise “The Hindu” (same date) carried a similar advt. in respect of a 70 year old female “identified as Thankammal”. What criminal charges and against whom? It would be interesting if fellow readers can enlighten on this subject.

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