Compensation for Covid victims- The government ought to revisit its plea before the apex court


Smt Nirmala Sitharaman,

I understand from recent news reports ( that the Centre has contended before the apex court that it would not be able to pay an ex-gratia relief of Rs 4 lakhs to Covid victims for the reason that “utilisation of scarce resources for giving ex-gratia, may have unfortunate consequences of affecting the pandemic response and health expenditure in other aspects and hence cause more damage than good“.

If the report is true, I am afraid that the Centre is ignoring the norm stipulated by it vide MHA32-7/2014-NDM-1 dated 8-4-2015 (Revised list of items & norms of assistance for SDRF/NDRF applicable over the timeframe 2015-20) which reads as follows.

Ex gratia relief for families of deceased persons

Rs.4.00 lakh per deceased person including those involved in relief operations or associated in preparedness activities, subject to certification regarding cause of death from appropriate authority

I have enclosed a copy of that notification for your ready reference.

There is no valid justification for the Centre to back down on this norm, certainly not on the ground that it could not afford it, especially as you yourself had so categorically assured the people in your Budget speech that the Centre would provide additional funds if necessary for meeting the exigencies of Covid.

In my view, the Centre is obligated to compensate the families of the citizens, especially those who belong to the economically weaker sections (EWSs), for the trauma undergone by them and the unreasonably heavy hospital expenses borne by them as a result of Covid, which is thrust on them by the cumulative effect of an unnatural disaster accelerated by those in authority through their irresponsible behaviour during the recent elections and by those responsible for facilitating large gatherings including religious assembles like the Kumbh Mela.

It is the right of the citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution to get compensated. the government cannot abridge that right on the ground that it cannot afford it. It is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.The Centre should prune down expenditure on other lower-priority items such as the Central Vista project and divert those resources for safeguarding the citizen’s right to life.

There is another important dimension to this in terms of how one values human life. The norm of compensation should relate to this.

The Centre should know that many poor families are being forced to seek treatment in private hospitals for want of space in public healthcare institutions. The private hospitals in turn are fleecing them, with the Centre and the States remaining passive spectators. It is from this point of view, if one were to measure the value of human life in terms of the healthcare costs, that the compensation payable to the Covid victims, especially those among the EWSs, should be much more than Rs 4 lakhs. Also, Covid has not only deprived the unorganised workers of their livelihoods but also eroded their productivity for which the State should assume responsibility and fully compensate.

May I therefore appeal to the Centre to modify its affidavit before the apex court taking these considerations into account?


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma, Former Secretary to GOI, Visakhapatnam


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