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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 29, New Delhi, July 3, 2021

Modi govt distorting DMA to deny compensation in Corona deaths - Excerpt from Press Briefing 28 June 2021 by All India Congress Committee

Friday 2 July 2021


All India Congress Committee - Communication Department
24, Akbar Road, New Delhi - 110 011

Excerpt from Press Briefing 28 June 2021

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Prof. Gourav Vallabh said - Modi Government Has Failed the People, Has No Right to Rule

Modi Government has Insulted the Deceased and Weakened our fight Against Covid

Our nation has been fighting the deadly Corona virus for the last 16 months now. So far, close to 4 lakh people have lost their lives and more than 3 crore people have been infected with this deadly virus. India’s middle class shrunk by 3.2 Cr & 7.5 Cr people were pushed below poverty line in 2020. As per CMIE, close to 97% of Indians became poorer during the last year. It is clear that both Life and Livelihood have suffered badly. But the big issue is that the BJP government has left the people alone in this fight and doesn’t seem to be bothered at all. COVID-19 checks all boxes of a disaster. The government however seems to be hellbent in proving that this is not a disaster. In March 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to treat Covid-19 as a "notified disaster". However, when the demand for compensation was made in Public Domain, the Modi Government took a U-Turn in the honorable Supreme Court by saying that it cannot be called a Disaster and is at best a Pandemic. The affidavit dated 19.06.2021 filed by the government is a blow to our fight against COVID-19. The government in its lame defense suggests a number of different arguments:

  • According to the government, an unidentified disaster is not akin to an identified disaster. In the “disaster” originally contemplated, is a one-time occurrence or the same occurs repeatedly for few times like floods, earthquake, cyclone, different kinds of “interim measures of relief” are to be provided
  • While the government expresses regret and sadness to the families of the deceased, this is all they can offer (Page 48/ Para 51 of the affidavit)
  • Although the Government is fully conscious of the need to provide them the necessary help and support, the Government cannot provide such support through ex-gratia assistance for those who have died (Page 49 of the affidavit)
  • The government calls support through compensation as a rather pedantic and narrow approach
  • Citizens have no Legal Right to claim ‘Ex-Gratia’ compensation, say Modi Government in Supreme Court (Page 52/ Para 55)

The government collected close to Rs 3.90 Lakh crore only as Excise Duty collections in 2020-21. The government’s argument there too is that this excessive collection is being directed towards the relief measures for the common man. This is contrary to the ground realities. Close to Rs 1.25 Lakh Crore has been withdrawn by people from their PF accounts since 1st April 2020. This is because the government failed to provide support of any kind to the middle class and low-income groups. MHA Letter No. 32-7/2014-NDM-I Dated 8th April 2015 stated that Rs.4.00 lakh per deceased person including those involved in relief operations or associated in preparedness activities, subject to certification regarding cause of death from appropriate authority. This was for the period 2015-2020. COVID-19 struck in this period. We will not allow the Government to unconstitutionally ignore this notification and all those who lost their lives amidst the Covid-19 pandemic must be granted the Rs. 4 lakh compensation under the Disaster Management Act. We have three specific questions for the government:

1. When nations such as the USA have classified COVID-19 under natural disasters and all terms of Natural Disaster apply on COVID-19 as well, what is stopping the Modi government from treating it as a natural disaster?
2. What support has the government provided to the families of the deceased so far and why is the government reluctant to provide compensation to the families of the deceased?
3. The excessive Excise duty on petrol and diesel that the government collects is the public money. If the government can’t spend 10% (Rs 40,000 Crore) of it on the families of the deceased, what is the use of this money?

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