New Delhi: The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has recommended that Rs 50,000 be given to the kin of those who died of COVID-19, the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

It said that ex-gratia assistance will also be given to the kin of those who died of the virus due to involvement in COVID-19 relief operations or activities associated with the preparedness for dealing with the pandemic.

The government said that NDMA has issued the guidelines on September 11 in compliance with the directions of the apex court given on June 30 wherein it had directed the authority to recommend guidelines for ex-gratia assistance.

The authority recommends an amount of Rs. 50,000 per deceased person including those involved in relief operations or associated in preparedness activities, subject to the cause of death being certified as COVID-19, as per the NDMA guidelines.

The assistance will not be limited to families affected by COVID-19 deaths in the first and second waves of the pandemic but will continue in future phases of the pandemic as well, the authority said.

The ex-gratia assistance to families affected by COVID-19 deaths will continue to be provided for deaths that may occur in the future phases of the COVID-19 pandemic as well or until further notification, it said.

In its affidavit filed on a batch of pleas by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal and intervenors represented by advocate Sumeer Sodhi seeking ex-gratia assistance to family members of COVID-19 victims, the Centre said the NDMA has already started discussions/consultations on the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission regarding insurance intervention.

Further studies are to be undertaken for laying the groundwork for these suggested insurance interventions. It is important that these insurance mechanisms are thoroughly studied, analysed and introduced with due diligence in partnership with insurance companies and hence it is a time taking process, the Centre said.

The family will get ex-gratia assistance subject to the cause of death of their kin being certified as COVID-19 as per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), it said.

The ex-gratia assistance will be provided by states from State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and all claims will be settled within 30 days of submission of required documents, and disbursed through Aadhaar linked Direct Benefit Transfer procedures, it added.

Detailing the methodology, the guidelines have stated that the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA)/district administration would disburse the ex-gratia assistance to the next of kin of the deceased persons.

The concerned families will submit their claims through a form issued by the State Authority along with specified documents including the death certificate that certifies the cause of death to be COVID-19, it said.

The affidavit said that the DDMA will ensure that the process of claim, verification, sanction, and the final disbursement of ex-gratia payment will be through a robust yet simple and people-friendly procedure.

The NDMA guidelines further state that in case of any grievances with regards to certification of the death, a committee at the district level — consisting of Additional District Collector, Chief Medical Officer of Health, principal of Head of Department of a Medical College (if existing in the district) and a subject expert — will propose remedial measures, including the issuance of amended official documents for COVID-19 death after verifying facts.

In case of the decision of the committee is not in favour of the claimant, a clear reason for the same shall be recorded, the affidavit said.

The NDMA said that after broad consultations and due deliberations with key stakeholders, it is of the view that for ex-gratia assistance related to COVID-19 different norms needs to be applied due to various reasons.

It said COVID-19 is a disaster that has not abated. The total number of deaths continues to rise. There is uncertainty about new variants of the virus and likely future waves. Therefore, it is not possible to ascertain the total final financial burden emanating from ex-gratia assistance. Financial prudence demands that we plan in a manner that assistance can be provided to a larger number of people should the number of deaths rise.

The authority further said that state governments have already been incurring large expenditures from SDRF on COVID-19 prevention, management and response.

In addition, the central government from the national budget has announced several measures to prevent COVID-19 (nationwide vaccination drive) as well as to provide relief assistance to those affected by COVID-19 (for example, support provided to the orphaned children, and PM Garib Kalyan Yojana Package), it said.

On September 11, the Centre has told the top court that the health ministry and the ICMR have come out with guidelines for issuing “official documents” for COVID-related deaths.

The apex court had in its June 30 verdict directed the NDMA to recommend within six weeks the guidelines for ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of persons who died due to COVID-19.

Also read | WHO reports global decline in new COVID-19 cases

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