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This country is paying $924 for every COVID death

·4-min read
A body is loaded into the back of an ambulance in India.
The Indian Government will compensate the familes of those who lost their lives due to COVID-19 (Source: Getty)

The face of the world has been left distorted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Governments across the globe in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) mobilised maximum available funds to address and resolve the horrors and complications that have been arising due to COVID-19.

So, how did they fare?  

When the Grim Reaper came to claim lives affected by COVID, government arrangements and funding fell flat in some countries. 

But who then should take responsibility for COVID deaths? Should a family get compensation from the government following the death of a member due to COVID-19 and if yes, then what should be the amount of compensation?

The economic impact of deaths due to COVID has been immense in certain Indian households given that 94 per cent of India's working population is self employed.

How did Australia mange COVID cases?

Australia's disaster management capabilities proved highly efficient in these troubled times and managed to clip the wings of the virus curbing the total number of deaths reported since the outbreak of COVID to 1,334 as of October 4, 2021.

Australia's total is less than 1 per cent of the total number of deaths reported worldwide which stands at 4,800,375, with the highest number of deaths being reported by the United States followed by India's 448,997 deaths.

Where the US being one among the countries with the best health care systems failed at curbing COVID deaths, it was obvious that developing countries with a much larger population and poor health care systems were bound to crash. 

What happened in India?

With its vast population of 1.3 billion and inadequate health care system, India was relatively successful in curbing deaths during the first wave of COVID by going into a complete lockdown for a few months during the first wave.

The second wave, however, returned with a vengeance and caught the government off guard. 

The Indian government was grossly under prepared to deal with the forthcoming disaster despite the relief packages it delegated in various sectors of health care and economy.

The innumerable deaths and the unfathomable grief that followed were inevitable given the unpreparedness of the system.

Why the Indian government has to pay the compensation

In May 2021, two separate pleas were filed in the Supreme Court of India seeking its intervention to direct the government and other related agencies to pay ex gratia compensation (compensation arising out of kindness or grace) in cases of COVID-19 deaths in conformity with The Disaster Management Act of 2005.

In 2015, a government notification fixed the ex gratia compensation amount at 400,000 rupees to the family of each person dying from a national disaster. But the law provides that the compensation amount can be revised by the government as and when required.

With the central government declaring the COVID-19 pandemic a national disaster under the Disaster Management Act, COVID-19 deaths became legally covered under the law.

At the rate of $7,392 the bill of COVID compensation would cross approximately $296 million considering the rapid rise in deaths in India.

In its June, 2021 argument with the top court, the Indian government cited scare resources and maintained that "any additional burden through ex gratia will reduce the funds available for other health and welfare schemes" and proposed to pay $924 compensation instead of $7,392.

The Indian government proposed that states will source the funds from their disaster response funds and channel it through the district administrations.

Taking into consideration the fact that the Indian government has already spent huge amounts to manage the pandemic and also the fact that the number of COVID deaths would continue to rise as the pandemic is not yet over, the top court approved the government's proposal to disburse a compensation of Rs 50,000 ($674) for every COVID death within 30 days of submission of the application.

The court has also directed that if any family member has grievances regarding the death certificate already issued, he/she can move the grievance redressal committee to be constituted by states.

It remains to be seen how effectively and seamlessly this compensation will be paid out to the affected families in India.

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