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.
- 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.