Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Compensation for Covid deaths


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Disaster Management Act

Mains level: Compensation for disaster victims and its limitations

The Supreme Court has reserved its verdict seeking compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of those who have died of Covid-19 or related complications.  The Centre has stated that state governments cannot afford to pay this, and had argued in favor of a broader approach including health interventions.

Provisions for Compensation

  • Last year, the Centre declared Covid-19 as a notified disaster under the Disaster Management Act.
  • Section 12(iii) of the Act says the National Authority shall recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster.
  • It includes “ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life as also assistance on account of damage to houses and for restoration of means of livelihood”.
  • The Centre revises this amount from time to time.

What is the latest amount?

  • On April 8, 2015, the Disaster Management Division of the Home Ministry wrote to all state governments and attached a revised list of “norms of assistance”.
  • Under “ex gratia payment to families of deceased persons”, it specified: Rs 4 lakh per deceased person including those involved in relief operations or associated in preparedness activities.
  • This is subjected to certification regarding cause of death from appropriate authority.

So, what about compensation for Covid?

  • Last year the Home Ministry wrote to state governments that the central government has decided to treat it (Covid-19) as a notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under SDRF.
  • It attached a partially modified list of items and norms of assistance.
  • It did not specify payment of ex gratia to families of deceased.
  • Some states have decided to pay, but not for all deaths.

How has the government responded to the petition?

  • The Centre has submitted that ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh is beyond the affordability of state governments.
  • It argued that if Rs 4 lakh is paid to the kin of each, it “may possibly” consume the entire amount of the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF).
  • This would leave states with insufficient funds for organizing a response to the pandemic, or to take care of other disasters.
  • The centre argued that the term ex gratia itself means the amount is not based on legal entitlement.

Way ahead

  • A broader approach, which involves health interventions, social protection, and economic recovery for the affected communities would be a more prudent, responsible, and sustainable approach.

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