Covid ex gratia payment drags on due to procedural delays, disputes
Time taken by village officers to verify BPL status of the deceased cited as reason
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When the LDF government announced compensation for the kin of people from BPL (below-poverty-line) families who died of Covid in October last year, it was touted as a novel and affirmative action. However, the process has dragged on due to cumbersome procedures to establish the BPL status and heirship.
The state is offering one-time compensation of Rs 50,000 to the families of all persons who died of Covid and an additional Rs 5,000 per month for 36 months for poor families. While the government approved 96% of one-time ex gratia claims, it has approved just 26% of BPL ex-gratia claims so far. The revenue department has received close to 19,000 applications from BPL families, which in itself is a low number because it was applicable to all Malayalis living inside and outside the state.
Among the total applications, less than 5,000 have been approved for compensation while it has rejected around 3,500 applications. There are over 2,500 complaints raised by the applicants. So far, none of the complaints have been addressed. Though the portal managed by the department said that none of the beneficiaries received money, the officials disagreed with that.
“We have started distributing money to all approved claims through district collectors. The process has been delayed because it requires the village officer to verify the BPL status of the deceased. There is also a lack of consensus among the kin of the victims on who shall receive the money. There are other issues regarding validity of bank accounts submitted by the applicants,” said an officer familiar with the ex-gratia application.
“The money is being released from the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund and the government will release non-plan fund. The problem with fund release from CMDRF is that it cannot be pooled and money is issued on the basis of application. So, it contributes to the delay,” he said.Even the one-time ex-gratia payments to the kin of Covid victims continue to drag despite the prod from the Supreme Court. Though the state has processed 61,369 of the 63,738 applications received, the state has reported only 68,196 deaths till Wednesday.
The low number of applications has faced the state to encourage more applications. The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority issued a series of directions to speed up the process for one-time ex-gratia. It has asked all families to apply within 60 to 90 days depending on the date of death.