Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Monday said it was “cruel” of the Narendra Modi government to refuse to pay Rs 4 lakh as compensation to families of those who died due to Covid-19.
“It is impossible to put a price to life – government compensation is only a small help but the Modi government is not ready to do that either,” Gandhi tweeted. “First the shortcomings in treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic, then false numbers and now this cruelty from the government.”
Gandhi’s comment came a day after the Centre told the Supreme Court it would not be possible to provide the compensation as finances of the state and central government are under severe strain. The Centre was responding to a petition seeking compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the family members of the citizens who died due to side effects of the infection or post-Covid complications, including mucormycosis or “black fungus”.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Union home ministry noted that any compensation under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to 12 notified disasters is given through the State Disaster Response Fund. It submitted before the court that if an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh is provided to every person who died of the infection, the entire amount in the fund may possibly be spent for this purpose alone.
During a hearing on Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, told the court that the government does not have the money.
“Our case is that we are utilising the funds available for other things to build health infrastructure, ensure food to all, vaccinate the entire population and provide financial stimulus to boost the economy,” Mehta said, according to PTI.
The court, meanwhile, asked the Centre to consider having a uniform compensation scheme. “Otherwise there will be heartburn,” a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah said. “Somebody will get some money and others will get more.”
The plea also seeks a uniform policy for issuing death certificates to those who died because of Covid-19.
On this, the Centre has said that that deaths of all citizens diagnosed with the coronavirus infection will be classified as Covid-19 deaths. The home ministry affidavit said that exceptions can be made in the death certificates only if there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be attributed to the infection. It added that action will be taken against doctors not complying with the rule.
The court reserved its judgement on the plea.