New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday poured water on expectations of families which lost their next of kin to the Covid-19 pandemic, slicing the ex gratia payment to a paltry Rs 50,000. A sum of Rs 4 lakh was prescribed as compensation to the survivors of disaster victims in 2015 under the National Disaster Management Act.
An affidavit filed by the Home Ministry in the Supreme Court says the ex gratia shall be paid by the state governments from the respective state disaster response funds (SDRF).
The most betrayed are families of the Corona-19 warriors who succumbed to the dreaded viral disease while engaged in relief operations, as they too will get a compensation of just Rs 50,000. This also has strings attached and is "subject to the cause of death being certified as Covid-19."
(As against this, Arvind Kejriwal's AAP government had announced ex gratia of Rs one crore in Delhi. In many other states, it is Rs 50 lakh).
On June 30, the apex court had given six weeks’ time to the National Disaster Management Authority to formulate the relief guidelines, leaving it to the wisdom of the NDMA to decide the ex gratia amount as a minimum standard of relief, in response to petitions seeking compensation of Rs 4 lakh, as fixed in 2015.
On July 22, the Centre had sought four weeks' time from the Supreme Court for the NDMA to finalise the compensation rate. The NDMA has stressed that this is not compensation but ex gratia amount, which is given as a succour to the affected kin to tide over the sudden tragedy in the family.
Pertinently, the court had held that the minimum standard of relief is mandatory and not discretionary under Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act.
The official tally of Covid-19 deaths is nearly 4.46 lakh.
The NDMA has stated that the District Disaster Management Authority shall disburse the funds to the next of kin of the deceased. In case of a grievance regarding certification of a COVID-19 death, a committee at the district level would intervene.
All claims are to be settled within 30 days of submission of the required documents and the disbursement will be through the Aadhaar-linked direct benefit transfer.
The government affidavit also says the ex gratia assistance will cover Covid deaths that may occur in future.
The cumulative cost to the state governments will be around Rs 22,000 crore, but officials expect it to be much less since many families may not stake claim after the lapse of so many months of the death of their near ones, while others will give up because of the cumbersome process of proving the deaths due to Covid-19.
Even many hospitals did not mention Covid as the cause of death. Besides, the kin have no record of deaths occurring at home or before hospitalisation.
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