New Delhi: In tune with the directives of the Supreme Court, the central government on Wednesday (September 22) informed the apex court that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has recommended giving Rs 50,000 to the kin of those who lost their lives because of COVID-19.
The Supreme Court had on June 30 directed the NDMA to recommend the guidelines for ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of persons who died because of COVID-19.
The District Disaster Management Authority will ensure that the process of claim, verification, sanction and the final disbursement of ex gratia will be done through a "people-friendly procedure". All claims must be settled within 30 days of submitting required documents and disbursed through Aadhaar Linked Direct Benefit Transfer procedures.
The Centre said the NDMA had issued the guidelines on September 11. It says compensation will be given for deaths in the past and also "will continue to be provided for deaths that may occur in the future phases of the Covid-19 pandemic as well, or until further notification".
The Centre has informed the top court that the amount per deceased person will also include those who were involved in relief operations or as associated in preparedness activities subject to the cause of death being certified as COVID-19.
The redressal of grievances regarding certification will be governed by the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and ICMR on September 3, 2021.
However, it is stated that the funds would be provided by states from the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) and distributed by the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) or the district administrations.
"Concerned families will submit their claims through a form issued by the State Authority, along with specified documents including the death certificate that certifies the cause of death to be CoVID. The DDMA will ensure that the process of claim, verification, sanction and the final disbursement of ex gratia will be done through a robust yet simple and people-friendly procedure. All claims must be settled within 30 days of submissions of required documents and disbursed through Aadhaar Linked Direct Benefit Transfer procedures." There are some reports already saying the Centre cannot leave the payment of ex gratia entirely to states.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that while states cannot entirely distance themselves from providing the assistance, a major share of the same has to come from the Central funding.
In Rajasthan, Congress state president Govind Singh Dotasra told journalists that: "It should be done by the Centre through their relief fund".
The NDMA is the country's apex disaster management body headed by the Prime Minister.
The Covid death count as of now stands at 4,45,768.
Drawing up the guidelines, the NDMA said, "Covid-19 is a disaster that has not abated. The total number of deaths continues to rise. There is uncertainty about new variants of the virus and the likely future waves. Therefore, it is not possible to ascertain the total financial burden emanating from ex gratia assistance." The NDMA also said – "While Covid-19 is an unprecedented disaster, other natural disasters that occur more frequently have not abated. It is important that sufficient funds are available to provide a timely and effective response to other disasters as well."
The apex court has also asked the Centre to come up with simplified guidelines for issuing official documents to family members of Covid-19 victims, which would help them pursue the collection of papers issued by the municipal or other authorities in connection with the death.
It also decided to treat deaths happening within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined as a Covid-19 case as death due to the pandemic, even if it takes place outside the hospital/ in-patient facility. However, deaths occurring because of poisoning, suicide, homicide, accidents etc., will not be treated as Covid-19 deaths.