NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Gujarat and Maharashtra governments on various issues associated with COVID compensation scheme, during the hearing in a matter where it is monitoring disbursal of Rs 50,000 to the kin of those who succumbed to the disease.
A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna, against the backdrop of lack of publicity given by state governments, noted that common man would struggle to learn about the compensation scheme. They took exception to the Gujarat government's failure to give adequate publicity — through print and electronic media — to the compensation scheme.
The bench queried whether there were adequate advertisements to inform people about the compensation scheme?
As the Gujarat government counsel contended that publicity was given through All India Radio (AIR), Justice Shah shot back: "Who listens to AIR?... You must give advertisements to newspapers, especially vernacular dailies."
The Gujarat government counsel assured these steps will be taken by Tuesday. "Look how people are struggling to get compensation," Justice Shah told counsel, asking him to use FM channels, local newspapers, and vernacular dailies to advertise about the scheme regarding COVID compensation.
The bench made it clear that steps should be taken and it will hear the matter the day after Tuesday.
The bench then asked about the status of compensation disbursement in Maharashtra and was told that the state has received 87,000 applications and till Monday, 8,000 applications were approved, and disbursal is in process.
As counsel assured the top court that 50,000 more persons will be paid compensation by December 31, the bench said: "You started only after we told you to do something... whether any wide publicity is given to the portal or not?" The counsel assured the bench that wide publicity has been given to the scheme.
The bench also did not appreciate the fact that the Maharashtra government had merely compensated just 8,000 out of 87,000 applicants, in a state which had witnessed more than a lakh deaths. "It's unfortunate that you have paid compensation to only 8,000 despite 87,000 applying for it," it said.
The top court made these observations on a plea filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal. The Supreme Court in its October 4 judgment, had approved Rs 50,000, ex-gratia for the kin of COVID victims, which was recommended by the National Disaster Management Authority. Previously, the top court had issued notice to several states over the abysmally low disbursal rate of COVID compensation.
On November 29, the Supreme Court expressed concern at state governments grappling with various issues in connection with Rs 50,000 ex-gratia distribution to next of kin of COVID victims. It had directed the Chief Secretaries of various state governments to furnish full particulars to the Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Disaster Management Authority, and scheduled the matter for further hearing in December. (IANS)