A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity
– Dalai Lama
Covid 19 pandemic has hit all of our lives very hard. Pandemic taught us a lot of facts. Loads of prayer, a list of complaints, a bucket of advice, hands of help were some of the few notable things. However, another notable thing last year was the PM CARE fund, a ray of hope against the pandemic for the citizen of India. Everyone contributed the maximum to the fund hoping for a win against the pandemic. People from every corner of the country contributed to the fund. But the PM CARE fund faced huge criticism because of its nature and transparency.
Since the pandemic is at its peak and the time is tense, the govt is facing over-criticism. The article is not a criticism but a question which the govt. must answer and learn from its past mistake.
The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations fund (PM CARES fund) was set up on 27th March 2020 following the COVID 19 pandemic in India. The purpose of the fund is to combat and provide relief efforts against the corona outbreak in India.
The PM of India is the Chairman of the fund. However, it is considered as a public fund but its complete documents for the constitution have not been made public.
PM CARE fund was created even though there is a fund called Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF). A lot of PIL and RTI have been made for getting information about the PM CARE funds. The main problem of the fund is lacking Transparency. The total amount of contribution to the fund has not been publicly disclosed. The fund shall not be audit by CAG. Initially, GOI claimed the fund as a trust and claimed not to come under the purview of RTI even though the fund uses Govt, infrastructure.
Later, in December 2020, GoI reversed its stance and declared the PM CARE fund as a public fund. However, the information regarding the fund was still not disclosed.
As per the National Statistical Office (NSO), the fund collected over $1.4 billion (data as per last year). Many celebrities, private sector corporates, railway employees, private individuals, professional and common people had contributed to the fund. Does the question arise where the money Is exactly going?
Last year, in May 2020, the govt. has pledged a total amount of Rs 3100 crore for spending to neutralize the effect of the pandemic. The amount shall be used to buy 50000 ventilators that were manufactured in India, Rs 1000 crore allocated to the states and UT to help Migrant workers, and Rs 100 crore allocated for vaccine development. Immediately govt ordered 6% of the ventilator order and allocated it to State and UT.
A problem arises in the case of ventilators. The order was given to Jyoti CNC Automation and MedTech Zone and Trivitron Healthcare. There were already some irregularities under Jyoti CNC still they manage to get the tender. Trivitron Healthcare received an order to produce 10,000 ventilators. But, interestingly, Trivitron was only in the designed phase still manage to get the order. It means they have no expertise for the same. However, there was huge criticism due to fact that ventilators were not up to the standard set.
Delhi-based LNJP raised concern about the ventilators via the PM CARE fund. Other institutions also refused to use the same since they didn’t meet the updated treatment protocols for administering oxygen. There was no monitoring of funds.
Again, in October 2020, GoI issued an online tender for the construction of 162 medical oxygen plants in districts hospital in India via the PM CARE fund. As per media inquiry, only 11 plants out of 162 plants sanctioned have been installed out of which only 5 were in operation. There was no mechanism of check and balance. However, as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 33 plants are installed.
There is no utilization of the fund. If the same has been properly utilized, then the situation would have been better. There is no availability of vaccines since there is a lack of raw material. Decisions are been taken but there is no responsibility and monitoring of decisions.
The fund failed. Lack of transparency and accountability, 4 lakh cases every day, 3500 death each day due to Covid, shortage of oxygen, shortage of vaccine, shortage of funds, and the list go on. Underutilization and ignorance are evident.
Strangely PMNRF had an unused amount of Rs 3,800.44 crore as of March 2021. The discussion must be taken forward to correct the mistake. This is the second wave. Many waves are yet to be seen, many could be controlled.