Requests for aid exceeding Covid toll, cleared most: Gujarat to Supreme Court
Gujarat told the Supreme Court on Monday that it received 22,557 applications for Covid-19 ex-gratia compensation and sanctioned payment in 16, 175 cases, far higher than the official virus death tally in the state that stood at 10,099.
The development came during a hearing in the top court, where judges directed Gujarat and Maharashtra to expedite the process of paying compensation, and noted the anguish of the common man who was made to wait to receive an amount of ₹50,000 as a one-time solatium. The top court had, on October 4, ruled that the money be given to the beneficiaries after due publicity.
“Till date, 22,557 applications have been received for payment of ex-gratia compensation, out of which sanction order has been passed for 16,175 cases. Out of the 16,175 cases which have been sanctioned, direct benefit transfer (DBT) has been done for 14,215 cases,” said an affidavit dated December 9, filed by the commissioner of relief, Gujarat.
As of Monday, Gujarat’s official Covid-19 death toll was 10,099.
The one-time compensation is being disbursed according to the Supreme Court’s orders on June 30 and October 4, which detailed guidelines for disbursal of compensation. These norms are more accommodating than the stricter standards to determine Covid-19 deaths adopted by govenment-appointed death audit committees.
The SC norms said that deaths occurring within 30 days from the date of being tested will be treated as Covid-19 deaths, as will those cases where the patient was admitted for more than 30 days in hospital and died subsequently. Moreover, even in cases where the death certificate didn’t mention Covid-19 as the cause of death will also be considered for compensation, provided the next of kin fulfilled other criteria.
In contrast, death audit committees -- which were set up by many governments, including Gujarat -- didn’t consider deaths that occurred 30 days from the day of testing, and the reason of death in many death certificates wasn’t mentioned as Covid-19 if the patient had co-morbid conditions.
These distinctions might have resulted in more compensation applications than deaths counted previously, as people excluded by the more conservative norms became eligible to claim payment under the ex-gratia guidelines, said experts.
Maharashtra, which reported about 140,000 deaths, also filed an affidavit in the top court and said it managed to process claims of only 8,000 people .
The court felt that Gujarat did not adequately publicise the online claims portal though the state said that the number of claims had risen from 12,718 on December 4 to 22,557 now. The portal was operative from December 3, said the affidavit.
“The common man is waiting and struggling to get ₹50,000. How will you inform them? We find that all the publicity is only on paper. Advertisements have to be issued in all newspapers giving the address of the online portal. The same has to be also shown on local channels, Doordarshan, and local newspapers,” said a bench of justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna.
The bench directed Maharashtra to process the nearly 84,000 claims received within a week, and asked Gujarat to ensure adequate publicity is provided about the ex-gratia scheme in local channels and newspapers.
Maharashtra’s counsel Sachin Patil told the court that the state aimed to process claims of almost 50,000 families by the end of this month, and that publicity was done in 121 newspapers.