Reuters/ New Delhi
India’s top court has ordered state authorities to pay $672 (Rs50,000) as compensation for each death caused by Covid-19, as a way to help families cope with the loss, according to its order reviewed by Reuters yesterday.
India has recorded 449,260 deaths overall, a tally experts say is a massive undercount, as millions more may have died in the vast hinterlands.
In major cities including the capital New Delhi, experts said a large number of deaths were unreported as hospitals ran out of beds and oxygen supplies.
In June, petitioners sought the court’s intervention in paying compensation to the families of Covid-19 victims. They said since Covid-19 was “specially” notified as a disaster under India’s National Disaster Management Act, compensation should be paid to the victims.
The 2005 law was enacted for efficient management of disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and compensation for lost lives, injuries and damaged properties. Petitioners had appealed to the Supreme Court to provide at least eight times the compensation, or Rs400,000, under the National Disaster Management Authority.
The government, in its affidavit, which was approved by the top court, agreed to the minimum payable amount to be disbursed by local authorities under the State Disaster Response Fund.
These funds would be over and above those paid by federal and state authorities under various other schemes, it said.
“All concerned authorities shall act as a helping hand, so as to wipe off the tears of those who have suffered due to loss of a family member due to Covid-19,” the Supreme Court said in its order.
It is not known how many countries have offered such compensation for Covid-19 deaths. In Thailand, a man filed a lawsuit against the government’s Covid-19 task force and the prime minister and two other government officials, demanding a compensation of 4.53mn baht ($134,000) for negligence of duty causing his brother’s death.
India’s Supreme Court ordered state administrative bodies to brush past long bureaucratic procedures and settle all claims within 30 days of submission.
The country’s healthcare system buckled under a devastating rise in infections in April and May, driven largely by the more infectious and dangerous Delta variant, which killed at least 170,000 people in May alone, official data showed.
Deaths have since come down sharply, and daily infections have settled around 34,000 since August.
India’s health ministry did not respond to a request for comment on determining the allocation amount.
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