Will Kerala now recognise 13,000 COVID-19 deaths as Centre set to offer compensation?

Family members and relatives perform burial of a COVID-19 victim, at a graveyard in Karad. Photo: PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government will have to release the full list of the COVID-19 deaths in the wake of the Central government's affidavit in the Supreme Court that it would give compensation to the dependents of those who died due to the pandemic.

According to the state government, the total number of COVID-19 deaths is 24,039. Though the state government, on July 2, had announced that it would release the details of COVID-19 deaths, nothing of that sort happened. As per the figures available with various local self-government bodies, 13,000 deaths due to COVID-19 were not officially declared as of July 3, 2021.

The Opposition Leader in the Assembly VD Satheesan, on July 27, released the details of the COVID-19 deaths which he had received from the Information Kerala Mission as an RTI reply. After assessing the list, it was found out that 7,316 COVID-19 deaths occurring from January 2020 to July 1, 2021 were not officially declared as deaths due to the pandemic.

A body named, State Death Audit Committee, had been formed earlier to find out the COVID-19-related deaths. The government then claimed that it was formed as per the guidelines issued by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). But when too many criticisms arose over the functioning of the said body, a new system has been introduced in which the COVID-19 deaths are declared at the district-level and then being reported to the state-level. The government is of the view that the new system is foolproof.

A decision on whether the dependents of NRIs who died in foreign countries would be eligible for the compensation given by the government is also much awaited.

Compensation covers future deaths too
The Central government has conveyed to the Supreme Court that the families of every COVID-19 fatality would be given Rs 50,000 each from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). The Centre assured this by way of an affidavit on a plea seeking Rs 4 lakh each as damages for next of kin of COVID-19 victims.

Supreme court | Shutterstock images

The deaths likely to happen in the future too would be eligible for this compensation, the affidavit stated.

The amount will be transferred to an Aadhaar-linked bank account of the eligible person of the deceased's family by the respective district administration or the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).

Earlier the central government had told the apex court that a death occurring within 30 days after a person is found positive for COVID-19 too would be deemed as death due to the disease.

The families of those who had died while undertaking COVID-19 containment activities will also be eligible for the compensation.

How to claim compensation
All documents should be attached along with the application. A death certificate authenticating the death as one occurred due to COVID-19 should be attached along with the application.

The District Disaster Relief Authority should award compensation within 30 days of the receipt of the application after assessing the merit of each case.

Any complaint regarding the denial of compensation should be looked into by a committee comprising the Additional District Magistrate, the District Medical Officer, the Additional Medical Officer and Medical College Principal/Head of the Department.

In case of rejection of the claim, the reasons for arriving at such a decision should be clearly spelt out in the letter by the committee.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

Centre should give major share: Pinarayi
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in Thiruvananthapuram that the Centre should give major share for giving compensation to kin of those who had died due to COVID-19.

The chief minister made it clear that the state government would not shrink its responsibility in this regard, though the Centre would not share any burden arising out of the granting of compensation.

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