My inclination is not to hurt anyone's sentiments or emotions with this but just to bring out a small rational evaluation from my end of the utilization of the PM care funds. So hope you take it in the right spirit and let's carry on with a healthy discussion.
So what is the PM CARES Fund?
The Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (also acronymed as PM CARES Fund) was formulated on 27 March 2020 with the main purpose of providing assistance against COVID-19 pandemic in India. The chairman of the fund is our honourable Prime Minister Mr Narendra Damodardas Modi and the trustees include our Minister of Home Affairs Mr. Amit Shah, Minister of Finance Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman and our Minister of Defence, Mr. Rajnath Singh.
It received humongous donations from corporations like L&T (with Rs 150 Crore), Wipro commit (with Rs 1,125 crore), Infosys Foundation (with 100 Crore), Reliance Industries (with Rs 500 crore) and many more with some celebrities as well including actors Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shah Rukh Khan.
Being used effectively or not?
Transparency and accountability are 2 very crucial pillars of democracy. The GOI initially stated that the fund was a private matter and in December 2020 announced it to be public. Although being in interest of the people, it doesn't come under the basket of RTI. There have been many PILs filed to get a knowledge on the same but haven't been answered in the most efficient manner. The exact amount till date hasn’t been disclosed to the general public but an estimate figure by the National Statistical Office(NSO) states a sum of around 9000-11000 crores.
The spending of the fund was done in stages allotting certain amounts for different medical equipments:
· As per a report from Economic Times, in May 2020 around 3100 crores were allotted to manufacture 50000 ventilators in India and around 100 crores for vaccine development. By June 2020, the order for around 2900 ventilators were even placed with private corporations for many states including Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and many more.
Now comes the interesting part. The private corporations included Jyoti CNC Automation in Gujarat which was quite a scandalous name in May 2020 and Trivitron Healthcare, which by September 2020 weren't even in the ventilator manufacturing sector. And as hoped, these machines didn't hit a home run or rather received complaints from many local Gujarat officials themselves on not meeting the required standards. Even on providing these ventilators to Delhi based Lok Nayak Hospital, the concerns raised were quite the same. And the same response was received from Karnataka private healthcare system.
· In October 2020, a plan of coming up with 162 oxygen plants was also set up. This job was given to Central Medical Service Society (CMSS), To work in collaboration with state governments and look over the project. But till date as per the reports only 33 have been setup (with only 5 being operational). In April 2021, The government decided to take this figure to 551 oxygen plants and acquire around 1,00,000 oxygen concentrators. Isn’t that a bit late to invest in such crucial equipment after we have hit such a surge.
A recent case that was highlighted pertaining to this was the AAP government involvement in not setting up 8 oxygen plants in Delhi when they were given the instruction for the same, but when some media houses investigated this matter, they concluded that the order from the Delhi government was given to the vendors of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare but unfortunately they didn't receive any response from them for quite a time.
Not only The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia’s (INSACOG) recommendation on proactively handling the second wave was not seriously considered, but the amounts that are being taken from the Indian population aren’t being invested to the most optimum use. Is this really the path we want to go with? Why the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) reports have dropped to 75% over the years, why have they been not given jurisdiction over these funds are really some of very crucial questions we need to talk upon.
I hope with this piece I can just initiate a conversation to talk about it at least and bring awareness to every end.