Compensation for COVID-19 deaths: NHRC asks Union Home Ministry to act in two cases

New Delhi [India], May 31 (ANI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has in its order directed the Union Home Secretary to act on the issue of addressing the plight of families after the death of family members due to COVID-19 in two particular cases.
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Compensation for COVID-19 deaths: NHRC asks Union Home Ministry to act in two cases

New Delhi [India], May 31 (ANI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has in its order directed the Union Home Secretary to act on the issue of addressing the plight of families after the death of family members due to COVID-19 in two particular cases.

Acting on a petition filed by noted human rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer, Radhakanta Tripathy, the apex human rights panel passed the order.

Tripathy explained the condition of families after death in COVID is unbearable for generations, especially for those where the sole breadwinner dies.

The death of an Indian citizen not only impacts his/her own personal life, it affects the lives of all the members of the family who were dependent on the sole source of income, Tripathy said.

"Due to the alleged inaction, negligence and the failure of the Centre and State Governments in applying law, formulating policies, applying judicious mind, the next of the family members of the deceased died of Covid fail to get any compensation as on today," Tripathy alleged.

The plea narrated the ordeal of a family where four deaths in quick succession of the breadwinners from July 14, 2020 onwards, Krushnachandra Sahu, 42, and three of his brothers from a family in remote Angargaon in Ganjam district of Odisha died of COVID living their widows and children behind who have been struggling for survival, he said.

Similarly, on May 07, 2021, Soni, 18, and her two minor siblings from Raniganj block in Bihar's Araria district have lost their parents in COVID. They sold their goats and cow to save but failed. Now three orphan children lead an immensely miserable life, he alleged.

"Since the medical officers have not been conducting post mortem of the persons who are dying due to COVID-19, the right of the family members to know the "real cause of death" of their member/relative on any official document," the plea added.

COVID-19 is a 'notified disaster' and affected persons and their families require assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), Tripathy said.

The State and Central Governments are unjustified in not giving ex-gratia monetary compensation of Rs 4 lakh or notified ex-gratia monetary compensation to the families of deceased who have succumbed to the pandemic of COVID-19, he said.

Lack of coordination among Central Government as well as State Governments (is) responsible for deaths and sufferings and denial of exgratia or compensation, Tripathy contended.

Even after a lapse of one year since the declaration of Covid-19 as a Disaster in March 2020, the provisions of Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 or the National Policy of Disaster Management have neither been reviewed nor amended to include effective steps to prevent the spread of the virus. The present National Policy is an incomplete framework so far as the pandemic is concerned, Tripathy pointed out.

"Non-review/updation of State Disaster Management Plan is the reason of present crisis. Despite knowing about the virus, the Government did not created any infrastructure dedicated for COVID-19, despite the recommendation from the Statutory Authorities," Tripathy further alleged.

Tripathy sought direction from the NHRC to seek a status report from the governments on the total number of Covid-19 related causalities and measures taken by the authorities for compensating the loss of life due to this disaster. The petitioner also urge to formulate a comprehensive "National Plan" for compensation for Covid deaths, invoke Disaster Management Act and/or other Act, Schemes meant for ex-gratia in case of Covid deaths and pay the Compensation, ex-gratia accordingly paving the way to save the orphan and distressed surviving members of the deceased victims.

In its order, the NHRC stated "This complaint be transmitted to the concerned authority for such action as deemed appropriate. The authority concerned is directed to take appropriate action within 8 weeks associating the complainant/victim and to inform him/her of the action taken in the matter." (ANI)