Hyderabad: An image containing a text in Telugu has gone viral on social media with the claim that Sanjeev Kumar Jindal, the joint secretary of the ministry of Home Affairs, has directed the chief secretaries of all states to give Rs. 4 lakh ex gratia to the families of COVID-19 victims.
The viral post further claims that the Central government has issued orders announcing Rs. 4 lakh ex-gratia to the family of a man who died of coronavirus. Furthermore, it claims that this assistance will be implemented across the country and that beneficiaries can apply for ex gratia by submitting a death certificate, ID proof, and bank details of the COVID-19 victim. Rs. 4 lakh ex gratia will then be credited directly to the beneficiary's account.
The claim is false.
Firstly, NewsMeter searched for news reports about Mr. Jindal directing the state chief secretaries to pay Rs. 4 lakh ex gratia to the families of COVID-19 victims but found none. He has made no such statement.
Secondly, the Central government has made it very clear that no such provision is being granted to families of COVID-19 victims. According to the 'New Indian Express', "the Centre has informed the Supreme Court that Rs. 4 lakh cannot be given to all COVID-19 victims as compensation because it would exhaust the disaster relief funds. It said that compensation only applies to natural disasters".
The Centre, in a 183-page affidavit, said, "If ex-gratia of Rs. 4 lakh is given for every person who loses life due to COVID-19, the entire amount of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) may possibly be spent on this item alone, and indeed the total expenditure may go up further."
The report further states that according to the Centre "if the entire SDRF funds get consumed on ex-gratia for COVID-19 victims, then the states may not have sufficient funds for organizing COVID-19 response, for provision of various essential medical and other supplies, or to take care of other disasters like cyclones, floods, etc".
A report by the 'Hindustan Times' clarified, "The ministry of home affairs (MHA) pointed out that COVID-19 was completely different from 12 notified natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 in which ₹4 lakh ex gratia is usually provided from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)."
Initially, in 2020, the government had agreed to provide assistance under SDRF and pay an ex gratia for all coronavirus victims. But within hours, the government decided to do away with the monetary assistance for the deceased and for COVID-positive persons requiring hospitalization. The clause on ex gratia and cost of hospitalization of all coronavirus-positive patients was deleted.
The Press Information Bureau has also tweeted that the claim regarding ex gratia is fake. "No such provision exists under the approved items and norms of expenditure for SDRF," it tweeted.
It is clear that neither has Mr. Jindal directed the chief secretaries of all states to extend Rs. 4 lakh ex gratia to the family of COVID-19 victims nor has the Central government made such a provision. Hence, the claim is false.
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