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Ventilators available in India to double due to purchases made using the PM CARES Fund

The number of ventilators to be purchased with the money from the PM CARES Fund assumes even greater significance when the number of ventilators that were available hitherto.

The PM CARES Fund was set up by Prime Minister Modi when it became evident that the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic will have severe consequences for India as well. Since then, detractors have made dubious claims to further their own petty politics. However, as the days have gone by, the benefits are starting to show.

As we had reported earlier, the central government had announced that the government will procure 50,000 ventilators with the money that have been donated to the fund. More importantly, the ventilators will be manufactured under the ‘Make in India’ programme. A total of Rs. 2000 crores was allocated for the same.

The number of ventilators to be purchased with the money from the PM CARES Fund assumes even greater significance when the number of ventilators that were available hitherto. According to estimates published by the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP) and the Princeton University, India had a total of 47,481 ventilators as of the 20th of April, 2020.

Total Ventilators available in India until April 2020 (image courtesy: @amishra77 on Twitter)

Thus, the ventilators purchased using the funds under PM CARES, the total number of ventilators in India will reach almost 1 lakh. This means, more than double the existing capacity will be added. India would more than double the number of ventilators available to the medical fraternity to combat the Wuhan Coronavirus in a matter of months. This is entirely unprecedented.

PM CARES vs PMNRF

Nevertheless, the establishment of the PM CARES Fund has attracted extensive criticism from the detractors of the Modi Government. It was claimed that the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) already existed and hence, there was no obvious need to establish another fund to combat the current crisis. But such notions are misguided.

The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was established in the year 1948. Initially, the purpose of the fund was to provide assistance to displaced people from Pakistan during and right after the partition of India. The resources of the PMNRF are now utilized primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of the major accidents and riots. There is no provision for tackling situations such as the COVID-19 crisis in a holistic manner. The PM CARES Fund has provisions to support relief or assistance in response to a public health emergency by upgrading health infrastructure and funding relevant research and other such measures not provided for by the PMNRF.

Furthermore, the objections raised by the Congress party assumes sinister proportions when one delves into the antecedents of the PMNRF. For instance, the Board of Trustees of PMNRF included the President of the Indian National Congress in its body when it was established. It is unclear why the president of a political party should have a guaranteed membership of a relief fund named after the post of Prime Minister.

It also ought to be remembered that it was only in 1985 that the Managing Committee of the PMNRF entrusted the entire management of it to the Prime Minister. The PM was conferred with sole discretion to appoint a “Secretary of the fund” on his behalf, upon whom amongst other things, the authority to operate the bank accounts of the fund was also delegated.

Even so, the PMNRF had continued functioning without a trust deed even after it was established as a trust. Thus, essentially, it gave unbridled power to the Prime Minister without any accountability. Thus, even in this respect, the PM CARES Fund is significantly more transparent than the PMNRF. It is pertinent to note that the PMNRF is not constituted by the parliament.

The PM CARES Fund makes it clear that the trust will be apolitical and the trustees that are appointed from various sectors will serve pro bono. Th fund was created on 28 March 2020. four days after the nationwide lockdown was enforced in India due to the pandemic. It will be used for combating, containment and relief efforts against the outbreak and similar pandemic like situations in the future.

PM CARES auditor debate

Last week, Congress supporters were crying themselves hoarse about the that the auditors who would audit the PM CARES fund are pro-BJP and hence cast aspersions that the audit may not be true and fair. After posting a series of pictures of the auditor Sunil Gupta of M/s SARC & Co. with BJP leaders like PM Modi, many Congress supporters questioned the independence of the auditors.

Here are some of his pictures with senior Congress leaders.

Gupta is also the auditor of PMNRF since end of financial year 2017-18.

The PM CARES Fund has the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Finance Minister and Defence Minister in its Board of Trustees apart from others. Furthermore, the founder of the firm, Rameshwar Thakur, that was appointed to audit the PMNRF was a lifelong member of the Congress party and had even been a Union Minister. The firm was replaced in 2017 by the Government.

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