The Opposition Congress has demanded that the Himanta Biswa Sarma government reveal updated and the correct COVID-19 death toll in the state. It also demanded compensation of Rs 4 lakh for next to kin of COVID-19 victims as per guidelines of National Disaster Management Act (NDMA).
In a letter to Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Debabrata Saikia asked for revising the COVID-19 death register with immediate effect. He alleged that negligence and inefficiency of the government has cost several lives in the pandemic.
Accusing the government of going to great lengths to hide the actual death figures, Saikia wrote, "We demand a detailed survey to create an authentic COVID-19 death register so that all those excluded can rightfully access compensation."
He further asked the Central government to ensure that Rs 4 lakh is paid as compensation to families of COVID-19 victims as permissible under the NDMA, since the ongoing pandemic has been notified as a disaster under the Act by the Centre.
He said that the Central government had committed to disbursement of ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh per victim in March 2020, but it was later revised and brought down to Rs 50,000 per victim.
Refusing to accept the Central government’s contention that paying Rs 4 lakh would leave it with insufficient capital to deal with COVID-19, Saikia questioned how the Centre continued to collect taxes through rising petrol prices and provide relaxation to corporates but deny relief to the citizens.
He appreciated the state government’s gesture of paying ex-gratia of Rs 2.5 lakh to families of the deceased and demanded that the Central government should give its share of Rs 3 lakh per victim.
As per rule, the compensation under NDMA is shared on a 75:25 ratio between Centre and state, with the former mandated accordingly to pay Rs 3 lakh and the remaining Rs 1 lakh by the state.
"We demand that steps to be taken by the Central government to give the Central share of Rs 3 lakh as ex-gratia," he added. The Assam government had announced in its Budget for this fiscal of providing one-time financial assistance of Rs one lakh to families of people who have died of COVID-19.
Earlier, a ‘Chief Minister’s COVID-19 Widows Support Scheme’ under which women whose husbands have died due to the infection are being given Rs 2.5 lakh each, if their annual family income is less than Rs 5 lakh, was rolled out in July this year. The government had also launched a scheme to provide Rs 3,500 every month to children orphaned by the pandemic.