Ramakanta Biswas

Families who lost their near and dear ones to Covid-19 and are reeling under acute financial constraints can heave a sigh of relief as the Odisha government has initiated a process to provide ex-gratia assistance to the bereaved kin. 

The State Health department has written to Collectors in all districts to constitute a committee at district-level for issuance of ‘Official document’ for Covid-19 death. The Collectors have been asked to form the committees within the next three days. 

As per the provision, ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 will be given to next of kin of those who died within one month after being infected with Covid-19. The assistance will be released from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). 

According to sources, Covid-19 has claimed many lives in Odisha. As per official data, 8,227 persons have died due to the virus in the State so far. However, many families have not received the compensation from the government yet.

For instance, Sukdev Nath and Bijaya Nath- an elderly couple at Nandapur village in Bhadrak district are living in dire straits after losing their son Manoj, the only breadwinner in the family. Manoj, who was running the family by driving an auto-rickshaw, succumbed to Covid-19 in June this year. A year ago, Manoj’s wife had also passed away. 

Now the elderly couple is struggling for survival with the three children left behind by Manoj and his wife. 

“I have sold off the auto-rickshaw of my son and is managing the family with the money. My house is in a dilapidated condition, but I have no money to repair it. My grandchildren are falling sick frequently after being exposed to heat and cold due to bad conditions of the house,” said Sukdev Nath.

Similar is the situation of Sasmita Nayak of Madhupali in Khallikote block of Ganjam district. She lost her husband Santosh Parida to Covid-19 on May 14. She is finding it difficult to raise her two children. 

“My husband passed away while being taken to a hospital in Berhampur. I have not received any relief from the government so far. If I get Rs 50,000 ex-gratia, it will help me support the education of my children,” said Sasmita. 

According to the notification issued by the State Health Department, the committee to be formed for issuance of Covid-19 death document will comprise the Additional District Magistrate, Chief District Medical & Public Health Officer, Principal or HoD, Medicine of a Medical College (If it exists in the district) and a subject expert.

All the Collectors have been asked to send a copy regarding constitution of the Committee for issuance of Official Document for COVID-19 Death to the Health and Family Welfare Department within three days.

According to sources, families of those who died of Covid-19 outside the hospitals can also apply for the death document and will be given ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 after furnishing the document.

Health Director Bijay Mohapatra said, “The district-level committee to be formed for issuance of Covid-19 death document will validate the claims of the family of those died due to Covid-19 and issue the certificate.”