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No clarity yet on disbursement of 1 lakh Covid death relief fund

Bengaluru The BS Yediyurappa-led government is yet to finalise the modalities of the newly announced compensation of 1 lakh for the families who have lost their loved ones to Covid-19
PUBLISHED ON JUN 16, 2021 04:10 PM IST

Bengaluru The BS Yediyurappa-led government is yet to finalise the modalities of the newly announced compensation of 1 lakh for the families who have lost their loved ones to Covid-19.

Senior officials in the government said that the announcement has just been made but there is still no clarity on who will implement the relief, which political leaders and rights activists say is a case of “putting the cart before the horse” and only for “sake of headlines and publicity”.

“It has just been announced and nothing has been worked out yet. The CMs (chief ministers) office will decide which office will implement it and then issue a government order,” said a senior government official, requesting not to be named.

Another senior official said that the modalities would not be too difficult to work out since it would require the beneficiary to show their BPL (below poverty line) card and death certificate.

The second official cited above said that Karnataka has followed the ICMR death reporting system issued in mid-last year to announce deaths.

“We have told very clearly that all Covid deaths have to be covered. Many states, what they are doing, if they are having comorbidities, they are not showing them as Covid deaths,” the official said, requesting not to be named.

Yediyurappa on Monday announced that the state government has decided to give 1 lakh compensation per family, as a measure to mitigate the hardships due to Covid-19 pandemic.

“Several earning members of families have died due to Covid-19 that has caused distress and many of them have come to the streets. Keeping this in mind, we have taken a decision to give 1 lakh to those BPL families if anyone has died due to Covid-19, one per family,” Yediyurappa said in Bengaluru on Monday.

The compensation, Yediyurappa said, totalled to around 250-300 crore and the count of beneficiaries anywhere between 25000-30000.

The state government has in total announced over 4000 crores worth of financial packages since last year to mitigate the hardships of those affected by the pandemic. But a significant number of these sections are yet to get any relief, adding to doubts if this time will be any different.

The state government has at least twice said that they would conduct detailed death audits, but has so far yet to come out with any such report so far.

According to official data, over 33,148 persons have died in Karnataka due to Covid-19 since the first death in India was reported in the state on March 11 last year.

“The government claims that there are around 30,000 people who have died but the deaths could be double of that. There are those who died without oxygen, people who have died at home. But even going by official government estimates, only 25% are likely to benefit,” Ramalinga Reddy, senior Congress leader and working president of the party, told Hindustan Times.

Karnataka has had around five weeks of lockdown-like restrictions which were intensified for nearly a month since the last week of April on account of a surge in new infections and rising deaths.

There are over 10 million BPL card holders in the state, Reddy said, and the amount of 1 lakh serves as no relief as many of them have paid a lot more as hospital bills for treatment.

In May last year, Yediyurappa announced a similar financial package of 1,610 crore which, among others, was aimed at providing 5,000 each to about 60,000 washermen, 2,30,000 barbers, 7,75,000 auto and taxi drivers among others.

However, this time around there has been a sharp decline in the number of beneficiaries too, as per the official statements by the chief minister’s office.

For instance, in the case of auto, taxi and maxi cab drivers, a one-time relief of 3000 has been announced for 2,10,000 beneficiaries from an estimated 7,75,000 beneficiaries last time around.

A senior government official said that last time around the authorities took the entire number of registered persons but were unable to trace them.

The problem of identification, registration and quantum of documentation, rights activists said, had already denied even the earlier announced benefits to several sections including domestic help.

Geetha Menon from the Domestic Workers Rights Union, which represents over 7,000 people working in this profession, said that not a single member has so far been able to get the relief announced by the government.

“The government has made it so difficult even to get this meagre amount,” Menon said.

She said that the persons who are in this profession are asked to get certificates not from their employers but different officials, leading to demands for bribes.

She said that the excessive documentation demands has led to the activation of the “shadow system” in which political leaders and others approach these workers and demand for 200-350 as commission to avail the benefit of 2,000.

“At one time the Aadhaar was the main assumed ID by the government. Today, you are asked for a BPL card and many of us do not have these cards. Then you are asked for a birth certificate and many of our women do not even know their date of birth,” Menon said.

She said that the death compensation is definitely going to impact their members as many of them do not even have BPL cards and it is not the lack of trying but due to bureaucratic hurdles.

Other sections, mentioned as beneficiaries like barbers, construction workers and several other professions have people who are not registered with the authorities.

Bengaluru, one of the biggest urban centres in the country, attracts migrant workers--blue and white collar--to the city and activists said that these people are entirely left out, leaving much of the so-called relief undisbursed.

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