The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has recommended an amount of Rs 50,000 each as ex-gratia payment to families of deceased persons including those involved in relief operations or associated in preparedness activities subject to cause of death being certified as Covid-19.
The Central Government said this in an affidavit in the Supreme Court. The Affidavit, filed by Govind Mohan, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, was in response to Apex Court directions.
It is pertinent to note that the Supreme Court in its judgment on June 30, 2021 passed the following directions:
1-We direct the National Disaster Management Authority to recommend guidelines for ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of the persons who died due to Covid-19, as mandated under Section 12(iii) of DMA 2005 for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to the persons affected by disaster – Covid 19 Pandemic, over and above the guidelines already recommended for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by Covid-19.
2-The Appropriate Authority is directed to issue simplified guidelines for issuance of Death Certificates/official documents stating the exact cause of death, i.e., “Death due to Covid-19”, to the family members of the deceased who died due to Covid-19.
3-The Union of India to take appropriate steps on the recommendations made by the Finance Commission in its XVth Finance Commission Report in consultation with other stakeholders and experts.
The order had come on two separate pleas filed by lawyers Reepak Kansal and Gaurav Kumar Bansal seeking directions to the Centre and states to provide Rs 4 lakh compensation each to the families of coronavirus victims as provisioned under the Act.
In its affidavit field on Wednesday, the Union duly complied with regard to issuance of an official document/death certificate stating the exact cause of death, i.e., “Death due to Covid-19”, to the family members of the deceased who died due to Covid-19.
Furthermore, the NDMA has already started discussions/consultations on the recommendation of the XVth Finance Commission regarding insurance interventions. Further studies are to be undertaken for laying groundwork for these suggested insurance interventions. It is important that these insurance mechanisms are thoroughly studied, analysed and introduced with due diligence in partnership with insurance companies and hence it is a time taking process, said the affidavit.
With regard to the NDMA guidelines for ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of life family members of the persons who died due to Covid-19, the Centre submitted that the NDMA has prepared guidelines for ex-gratia assistance to next of kin under Section 12(iii) of the DM Act.
Guidelines for Ex-Gratia Assistance to next of kin of the deceased by Covid-19
Existing Norms: The Existing Guidelines on Minimum Standards of Relief issued by NDMA in 2016 , in accordance with Section 12 (iii) of DMA 2005, in section 7 (e) stipulate that for ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of life, the norms provided by Government of India for Assistance from SDRF should be the minimum standard of relief. In this regard, the ” Revised list of items & norms of assistance from SDRF/NDRF” issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 8th April 2015 are the extant norms .
Key considerations: After broad consultations and due deliberations with key stakeholders, NDMA is of the view that for ex-gratia assistance related to Covid-19, different norms need to be applied for the following reasons :-
a . 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 likely future waves. Therefore, it is not possible to ascertain the total final financial burden emanating from ex – gratia assistance. Financial prudence demands that we plan in a manner that assistance can be provided to the larger number of people should the number of deaths rise.
b. The state governments have already been incurring large expenditure from SDRF on various aspects of Covid-19 prevention, management and response. In addition, the Central government from the national budget has announced several measures to prevent Covid-19 (a nationwide vaccination drive) as well as to provide relief assistance to those affected by Covid-19 (for example , support provided to the orphaned children, and PM Garib Kalyan Yojana Package) State governments have also announced welfare measures from the state budgets. So, in effect, some financial and material assistance has already been provided in different forms to some of the most vulnerable sections.
c. 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 under SDRF to provide a timely and effective response to other disasters as well.
Amount of ex-gratia payment: The NDMA recommends an amount of Rs 50,000 per deceased person including those involved in relief operations or associated in preparedness activities, subject to cause of death being certified as Covid-19. With regards to such certification, and redressal of any grievances regarding the same, guidelines issued by MOHFW and ICMR on 314 September 2021.
Source of funds: The ex-gratia assistance shall be provided by States from the SDRF.
Disbursement: The District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA)/ administration would disburse the ex-gratia assistance to next of kin of the deceased persons. The 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-19. The DDMA will ensure that the process of claim, verification, sanction, and the final disbursement of ex-gratia payment will be through a robust yet simple and people-friendly procedure. All claims must be settled within 30 days of submission of required documents, and disbursed through Aadhaar-linked DBT procedures.
Grievance redressal: In case of any grievances with regards to certification of the death, as prescribed in the MOHFW and ICMR mentioned above a committee at district level guidelines consisting of Additional District Collector, Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Additional CMOH/ Principal or HOD Medicine of a Medical College (if one existing the district) and a subject expert, will propose necessary remedial measures, including issuance of amended Official Document for Covid-19 death after verifying facts in accordance with these guidelines. In case the decision of the Committee is not in favour of the claimant, a clear reason for the same shall be recorded. Continuous scheme: The Ex-Gratia assistance to families affected by Covid-19 deaths 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.