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Karnataka yet to pay compensation to Covid-19 victims, cites ‘conflict’ between ex-gratia schemes announced by state, Centre

Families in which deaths occurred at homes without the patients getting a Covid-19 test done or being admitted in hospitals for Covid-like symptoms were not considered eligible for the compensation.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru |
September 28, 2021 3:46:30 pm
Karnataka, Karnataka government, Covid-19 compensation, Karnataka Covid-19 compensation, Karnataka Covid-19, Covid-19 victims, Indian express, Karnataka news, Indian express news, current affairsThe state had earlier announced that below-poverty line families that have lost their earning member will be eligible for the Rs 1 lakh compensation. (File photo)

With “procedural delays” marring the roll out of compensation to the kin of the Covid-19 victims in Karnataka, the ex-gratia amount of Rs 1 lakh meant for below poverty line (BPL) families that have lost their earning member to the pandemic has not been disbursed yet.

A few days after the discussion on the same left the BJP-led government embarrassed in the Assembly, Tushar Girinath, the principal secretary of the revenue department (disaster management), cited delays in the declaration by legal heirs and a possible “conflict between the schemes announced by the state and the central governments” as obstacles in completing the process.

“Soon after the order was issued (in July), we had made a software to collect and verify data from BPL families that lost their breadwinners to Covid-19. Legal heirs of these families had to declare their claim and get an eligibility certificate to be added to the list, which was delayed for several cases,” he said.

According to the guidelines issued by the Karnataka government on July 8, beneficiaries had to provide a “Covid-19 positive report from a recognized laboratory” which should have been uploaded to the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) portal, with a patient number, among others, to claim the compensation.

However, families in which deaths occurred at homes without the patients getting a Covid-19 test done or being admitted in hospitals for Covid-like symptoms were not considered eligible for the compensation.

Further, Girinath added that village accountants tasked with identifying beneficiaries and verifying bank details and other documents to enable the transfer of the amount were also ready when the Union health ministry and the ICMR came out with guidelines for issuing “official document” in case of Covid-related deaths on September 11.

“The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) subsequently recommended an ex-gratia amount of Rs 50,000 for loss of life due to Covid-19 (not limited to BPL families), based on which the MHA (ministry of home affairs) issued orders that reached us only on September 25. Nonetheless, the state government had decided to go ahead with disbursing the compensation which symbolically began on September 23 (last Thursday),” he said.

According to officials, revenue minister R Ashoka had handed over cheques of Rs 1 lakh each to 16 BPL families in Bengaluru last Thursday. “All beneficiaries were from Bengaluru north and south areas and the funds were allocated by the Bengaluru urban district administration,” Girinath added. Ashoka, while distributing the cheques in the Karnataka capital, had announced that the government had received 7,729 applications till then.

Meanwhile, a senior official said that the latest order from the MHA was likely to help the state government enhance compensation coverage to more beneficiaries. “While BPL families can claim Rs 1 lakh, for which funds will be disbursed from the Sandhya Suraksha Scheme, others might be able to claim Rs 50,000 which will be paid through the SDRF finds as per Central government guidelines. The state government is likely to issue an order clarifying this soon,” the official explained.

Incidentally, the issue caused rumblings in the Assembly on the same day following a claim by transport and schedule tribe minister Sriramulu that the previous Yediyurappa-led government had “paid Rs 1 lakh to each and every family (of Covid victims in the state)”.

Congress MLAs jeered the statement, forcing health and family welfare minister K Sudhakar to intervene. “The money has been allocated and kept aside for Covid-19 compensation to the BPL families but we are facing procedural delays in disbursing them,” he said, admitting that none has been paid the ex-gratia amount of Rs 1 lakh till then.

Further clarifying his former cabinet colleague’s statement, Yediyurappa said, “What Sriramulu said is wrong… Rs 300 crore has been allocated for it and an order was issued. It is true that it (compensation) is yet to reach the people. I assure this House that we will go door-to-door to ensure it reaches the people.”

As many as 37,746 people have succumbed to Covid-19 cumulatively in the state, statistics issued by the department of health and family welfare on September 27 revealed.

“The government has created another software to upload data for Covid-19 compensation as per the Centre’s norms, and is now in the process of integrating it with the one developed first for the state government’s compensation. The disbursement of compensation is expected to be streamlined once this is completed,” the revenue secretary said.

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