India has recorded 449,260 deaths overall, a tally experts say is a massive undercount, as millions more may have died in the vast hinterlands. In major cities including the capital New Delhi, experts said a large number of deaths were unreported as hospitals ran out of beds and oxygen supplies.
Petitioners had appealed to the Supreme Court to provide at least eight times the compensation, or 400,000 rupees, under the National Disaster Management Authority, through which the government provides some financial help in natural disasters such as earthquakes.
The government, in its affidavit, which was approved by the top court, agreed to the minimum payable amount to be disbursed by local authorities under the State Disaster Response Fund.
These funds would be over and above those paid by federal and state authorities under various other schemes, it said.
“All concerned authority shall act as a helping hand, so as to wipe off the tears of those who have suffered due to loss of a family member due to Covid-19,” the Supreme Court said in its order.
It is not known how many countries have offered such compensation for COVID-19 deaths. In Thailand, a man filed a lawsuit against the government’s COVID-19 task force and the prime minister and two other government officials, demanding a compensation of 4.53 million baht ($134,000) for negligence of duty causing his brother’s death.
India’s Supreme Court ordered state administrative bodies to brush past long bureaucratic procedures and settle all claims within 30 days of submission.
The country’s healthcare system buckled under a devastating rise in infections in April and May, driven largely by the more infectious and dangerous Delta variant, which killed at least 170,000 people in May alone, official data showed.
Deaths have since come down sharply, and daily infections have settled around 34,000 since August.
India’s health ministry did not respond to a request for comment on determining the allocation amount.
India has reported 33.85 million infections overall, the second-highest globally behind the United States.
($1 = 74.4390 Indian rupees)