UP Covid deaths: Ghost beneficiaries receiving compensation?

Was the earlier data of deaths due to Covid-19 released by the UP government wrong?

UP Covid deaths: Ghost beneficiaries receiving compensation?

K Santosh

It seems some ghost beneficiaries are collecting the Rs. 50,000 each compensation being given by the government in Uttar Pradesh to the kin of those who died due to Covid. For the number of beneficiaries is much higher than the number of dead officially declared by the state government.

The UP government has said that only 23,501 deaths occurred due to Covid in the first and second wave, notwithstanding long queues at the crematoria and dozens of dead bodies floating in the Ganga. The state has a massive population of 25 crore.

According to the World Health Organisation report, more than 40 lakh people have died from Covid-19 in India. But the government’s figure in the country is only 5.22 lakh deaths.

After the Supreme Court came down heavily and asked the governments to pay Rs. 50,000 ex-gratia to the kin of the Covid dead, a different set of figures is coming out. According to the data given by the government in the Supreme Court on February 3, it had paid compensation to 29,622 people while 37,007 had applied for the compensation.

Till March 31, more than 41,000 people in 75 districts of UP have been given a compensation of Rs 50,000 each. From Lucknow to Lakhimpur and Gorakhpur to Ghaziabad, the number of beneficiaries is around twice that of the death toll earlier given by the babus in every Tehsil.

In the capital Lucknow, the administration is admitting only 2386 deaths due to corona infection. But the disaster management department has already released an assistance of Rs. 50,000 each to 4,789 families. At present, more than 600 applications received in the new financial year are pending.

Similarly, in Gorakhpur the administration is accepting only 858 deaths due to corona. Till March 31, a total of 1838 families have been paid compensation. This is the situation when in many districts, the documents related to deaths are missing. The figures of deaths in Kanpur and adjoining districts are yet to be cleared due to lack of death audit. At many places several applications by the affected families are pending due to missing documents.

In Prayagraj, advocate Rahul Khare questions the functioning of the administration. He said, “There’s still a lot of truth to come out. Two cremation figures were recorded in the police register on the same day in April last year at Phaphamau Ghat. For the first time, 131 people were cremated, and for the second time, 126 people were cremated. But surprisingly, on the same date according to the health department’s data, only 11 people had died.”

Congress spokesperson Haseeb Ahmed had also written a letter to the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court in the matter. Rabish Kumar, who has been reporting on health for a long time in Varanasi, says, “Perhaps the real data of the semi-charred bodies floating in the Ganga and the crowds at hospitals is coming out now. Now, the question is whether the earlier figures of the government were wrong or whether the sarkari babus are doing corruption and doling out compensation to the underserving people.”

According to latest data, 2128 UP government employees died on duty during the pandemic.However, earlier the UP government had claimed that only 74 employees had died on duty. Later, UP Primary Teachers Association president Dinesh Chandra Sharma released a list of 706 teachers who had died on duty due to Covid. Subsequently, Additional Chief Secretary (Panchayati Raj) Manoj Kumar Singh admitted that under the revised protocol, 3,092 applications for compensation have been received. Of these, 2,020 have been processed.

Still, the families of many frontline workers are struggling to receive the compensation of Rs. 50 lakh.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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