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Monday, December 06, 2021

Collector offices across Maharashtra swamped with queries on Covid ex-gratia

There have also been complaints about the functioning of the district-wise grievance redressal committees that were supposed to assist such kin as per the directive of the Supreme Court.

Written by Rupsa Chakraborty | Mumbai |
Updated: November 24, 2021 10:28:03 am
Covid vaccination in Nerul on Tuesday. (Photo: Amit Chakravarty)

Collector offices across the state are receiving several queries daily about the procedure for receiving the Rs 50,000 ex-gratia for Covid-19 deceased patients. Most of them are from families who do not have Covid test reports and death certificates that mention ‘Covid-19′ as the ’cause of death’.

There have also been complaints about the functioning of the district-wise grievance redressal committees that were supposed to assist such kin as per the directive of the Supreme Court.

The apex court had on October 9, while approving the Centre’s disaster management guidelines on payment of ex-gratia, ordered that no state should deny the compensation on the sole ground that the death certificate does not mention Covid-19 as the cause of death. So, the court ordered the establishment of grievance redressal committees at district level within seven days to propose remedial measures to the families.

The committees — consisting of additional district collector, chief medical officer of health, head of department of machine of a medical college among others — were to be provided direct access to the medical report of the deceased patients from the hospital and public health department for examination.

State officials acknowledged that many of these committees are lying idle due to lack of guidelines from the state government.

Hingoli Collector Jitendra Papalkar said, “We have formed the committee but it is of no use. Until we get SOP from the state government, the committee can’t function.”

Ahmednagar Collector Rajendra Bhosale, whose district recorded 7,102 Covid fatalities, said that the district-level committee hasn’t received a single query.

Dr Nikam, civil surgeon from Amravati with 1,595 Covid-19 deaths, said, “A person has to apply to the collector’s office or corporation. If the application is rejected, then they have to approach the committee for hearing. As the scrutiny process hasn’t started yet, the committee has no function.”

Some districts are yet to form the committees. “We are yet to get SOPs from the state government. There are several issues, like we don’t know who will be the next of kin if a minor loses both parents to Covid-19. It will take a day to form the committee, but we need to know how to solve their grievances,” said Sunil Chavan, Collector of Aurangabad.

Aseem Gupta, Principal Secretary, relief and rehabilitation department, told The Indian Express, “We have already released the GR instructing the district to form the committee but the SOP is pending. We are waiting for the system to be up. We need an API integration with the ICMR. This will help in directly syncing the data with the Aadhaar card number of the deceased.”

When asked why the department isn’t taking the data from the state public health department, he said the state government doesn’t show the Aadhar number, so they have to rely on ICMR.

In Maharashtra, until November 23, a total of 1,40,766 people had succumbed to Covid-19. Dr Avinash Supe, in-charge of the Covid death committee, said there is a possibility that 5-7% of Covid-19 fatality might have gone unrecorded. There have been cases, especially at the start of the pandemic, when Covid-19 symptomatic patients with negative test reports were diagnosed clinically but their death certificates didn’t mention Covid-19.

Advocate Gaurav Bansal, who was the petitioner in the Supreme Court for the compensation, said that the instructions to form the committees were given to help the families of suspected Covid-19 patients who on paper weren’t declared as Covid fatalities. “There are hundreds of such unreported Covid-19 deaths. It is also reflected in the ‘excess deaths’ reported across the nation in the pandemic compared to the previous years,” he said.

On Monday, the SC asked the Union Health Ministry to submit the state-wise report of the total number of grievance redressal committees established.

Gupta confirmed to The Indian Express that families without positive RT-PCR, RAT results and Covid death certificates would also get the ex gratia if the deceased died within 30 days of being clinically determined as Covid-19 through investigation. However, the districts said they would prioritize applications with positive RT-PCR reports.

“If we declare that families without any medical reports of infection would also be granted ex-gratia based on clinical diagnosis, we will be flooded with applications. So, firstly, we will provide the compensation to families with positive RT-PCR reports as it will be faster,” he said.

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