The Congress on Monday demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of all Covid victims in the country, saying the government has no right to rule if it cannot provide that. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the government can compensate the Covid-affected families from the tax collected on petrol and diesel.
"The Covid-affected families can be compensated from a small part of the petrol-diesel tax collection — this is their need and right. The (Narendra) Modi government should not back out from this opportunity of providing assistance to the public in a disaster," he said in a tweet in Hindi. Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said the government will have to pay Rs 40,000 crore as compensation to the Covid victims, which is only 10 per cent of of the Rs 4 lakh crore that it has earned from the excise duty on petrol and diesel in the last year alone.
He said so far, nearly four lakh people have lost their lives and more than three crore have been infected with the coronavirus, but the government is not ready to part with even 10 per cent of the money it has earned from taxes last year. Vallabh alleged that the government is "distorting" the Disaster Management Act to deny compensation to the families of Covid victims.
He said the government has failed the people and has no right to rule after it insulted the deceased and weakened the country's fight against Covid. Vallabh said compensation must be paid to the victims as they died due to a lack of oxygen and the government's negligence.
"The Congress party demands that the government include COVID-19 in natural disasters and provide a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of those who died due to it," he said. Noting that this will be the country's debt of gratitude to the families of the deceased, the Congress leader said not providing this compensation is an insult to the frontline workers who have laid down their lives fighting the pandemic from the forefront.
"A government that cannot provide Rs 10 lakh to the families of the deceased has no right to be in power," he said. Vallabh said even though the government talks of saving lives and livelihood, it has done neither due to its mismanagement and inept handling of the pandemic.
India's middle class has shrunk by 3.2 crore and 7.5 crore people were pushed below the poverty line in 2020, he said, adding that according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), close to 97 per cent Indians became poorer during the last year, he said. "It is clear that both life and livelihood have suffered badly. But the big issue is that the BJP government has left the people alone in this fight and does not seem to be bothered at all," the Congress leader added.
In March 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to treat COVID-19 as a "notified disaster" but when the demand for compensation was made, the government took a U-turn in the Supreme Court by saying that it cannot be called a disaster and is at best a pandemic, he said. The Centre's affidavit filed in the apex court on June 19 is a blow to the country's fight against COVID-19, Vallabh added.
He said it is not just a constitutional obligation but a moral one too as those who have lost their lives in the pandemic must be granted a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each under the Disaster Management Act. "We will not allow the government to unconstitutionally ignore this notification," the Congress leader said.
"What support has the government provided to the families of the deceased so far and why is it reluctant to provide compensation to them?" he asked. Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it is shocking and shameful that the government is denying compensation to the families of Covid victims.
"Shocking and shameful. Modi Government tells the Supreme Court — Covid is not a disaster. Families of COVID19 victims don't have right to compensation. "But BJP collects Rs 4 lakh crore per year from fuel loot. Release Rs 10 lac as compensation to victim's kins or resign," he tweeted.
Gandhi said the country wants to know the truth about Covid vaccines as he cited a news report that claimed that the government is giving different figures for vaccination. "The country hoped to get the truth from those who do not know what truth is," the former Congress chief said in a tweet in Hindi and used the hashtag "VaccineJumla".