NEW DELHI: The Congress on Wednesday said the Supreme Court asking the government to grant compensation to the families of COVID-19 victims is a vindication of its stance and has exposed and debunked the Centre's plan to abdicate its responsibility.
The opposition party alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again failed the nation by not standing with the families of Covid victims and demanded that he immediately announce a "COVID Compensation Fund" with a relief of Rs 10 lakh each to them.
Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the government should also announce concrete steps to tackle the imminent third wave of COVID-19.
"We, the Indian National Congress, demand that the prime minister and the Modi government should wake up from their indifference and slumber to the unfolding human tragedy, which could have been largely prevented but for the criminal mismanagement and successive failures of the government," he said in a statement.
"The prime minister should immediately announce a "COVID Compensation Fund" with a relief of Rs 10 lakh to the families of the victims of COVID-19," he added.
The Congress leader said as demanded by the Congress and other opposition parties, the government should lay down realistic targets and ensure vaccination on a mission mode, instead of repeatedly trying to use it as an image management or branding exercise.
This is the only way to fight COVID-19 and heal those who have suffered, he said.
Surjewala said the "anti-people and ill-conceived plan" of the government to abdicate its responsibility of providing assistance and compensation to the families of Covid victims has been exposed and debunked by the Supreme Court.
"This is a vindication of the Congress party's stance and the demand raised by Rahul Gandhi for the creation of a 'COVID Compensation Fund' and grant of Rs 10 lakh to every COVID-19 victim by the central government by transferring 10 per cent of the annual 'fuel loot' of Rs 4 lakh crore being collected by the Government of India," he said.
"The sinister attempt of the Modi government to choke and dilute the Congress/UPA-enacted legislation i.e. the Disaster Management Act, 2005 with a view to deny compensation to the families of the victims of COVID-19 has also been decisively rejected by the court," the Congress leader said.
Alleging that the "malice and malintent" of the government to deny compensation has been unmasked, he said the Centre's response, affidavit and arguments in the apex court to deny compensation to the families of Covid victims were "utterly shameful, reflecting their inhumane approach".
Reminding the prime minister to follow "Rajdharma", Surjewala said as the head of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as also by virtue of the office he holds, the prime minister was obligated to show compassion towards those who have lost their loved ones to the viral disease.
"Sadly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi again failed the nation," he said.
Surjewala said the Supreme Court had to issue a direction to the NDMA, headed by the prime minister, to frame guidelines to grant compensation to the families of Covid victims after debunking the government's stance.
This calls for serious introspection on part of the prime minister about his role and responsibilities as the head of the nation, he said.
The Supreme Court directed the NDMA on Wednesday to issue fresh guidelines for providing the minimum standards of financial help to the families of Covid victims.
A special bench of justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah said the court cannot direct the Centre to fix a particular amount of financial help, but the latter can fix the minimum standard of amount to be paid as ex-gratia to the families of Covid victims while keeping various aspects in mind.