NEW DELHI – India’s coronavirus death toll could now amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in government payout.
The country’s Supreme Court has ordered India’s Civil Protection Agency to pay 50,000 rupees, about $ 671 to families of people who have died from Covid. India’s official number of victims of the pandemic is 449,260, although experts estimate that the true number of Covid deaths is many times higher. Even that smaller number would suggest payouts of around $ 300 million.
The number of families seeking compensation could skyrocket as the government broadened the definition of Covid-19 death to include anyone within 30 days of a positive RT-PCR test or clinical examination who confirmed the infection has died.
“This is a Herculean task for the government,” said Gaurav Kumar Bansal, the attorney who brought the trial to India’s highest court.
India’s National Disaster Management Act mandates that government indemnities of 400,000 rupees, about $ 5,400, should be paid to families who lose loved ones to typhoons, floods, and other disasters.
Millions of India’s 1.4 billion people live below the poverty line, and the Supreme Court order issued on Monday came in response to litigation in the public interest, a type of case in India that is brought on behalf of the general public and not anyone specific plaintiff.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government declared the pandemic a disaster in March 2020, a move that gave it the power to impose a strict nationwide lockdown.
Bansal said the disaster declaration should also have resulted in compensation payments.
“We challenged them to choose and choose,” he said. “If it is reported as a disaster, all provisions of the Civil Protection Act apply.”
The government offered $ 671 per death. The Supreme Court, which took into account the agency’s other costs, agreed.
Anirudh Singh Rathore, 60, a clothing retailer in the capital New Delhi, lost his wife to India’s wild second wave last spring. He has applied for compensation to the Delhi government online but doubts the money will get there.
“Such compensation is not easy to take from the government,” he said. “It’s very easy to announce, but difficult to get.”