When the country was grappling with the second wave of coronavirus outbreak, most notably with the oxygen crisis, the Congress government in Rajasthan presided over gross irregularities in the purchase of oxygen concentrators in Rajasthan, an investigative report published in Dainik Bhaskar has said. According to the report, the Rajasthan government paid several times more than the normal price for the purchase of oxygen concentrators. They are also purchased after the oxygen crisis had ended in the country.
Firstly, the Congress government did not procure the oxygen concentrators directly from the manufacturers. Instead, they sourced it from private companies with the help of middlemen, who probably had their cut in the purchase and sell of the oxygen concentrators.
Secondly, concentrators worth Rs 35,000-40,000 were bought paying up to Rs 1 lakh, a staggering 2.5 times their original cost.
And thirdly, most of the concentrators were bought on May 2, almost a month after the coronavirus peak had passed in the state and oxygen supply had stabilised after the crisis in April. As a consequence, most of the concentrators are lying as junk in hospitals across the state. Bhaskar team reached 65 health centres in 11 districts of the state to know about the truth of overpriced concentrators. It also spoke to the companies that supplied the oxygen concentrators to the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan.
The report says companies were ready to provide the Bhaskar team with concentrators at Rs 35,000 to 40,000 as against the government procurement, which reportedly gave up to Rs 1 lakh per oxygen concentrator. On the condition of anonymity, one of the private companies confided in the Bhaskar team that even at the time when the state was pummelled by the ferocious second wave of coronavirus outbreak, a concentrator with a capacity of 5 litres was costing Rs 35,000-40,000 and not Rs 1 lakh.
On investigating MLA funds earmarked for the procurement of oxygen concentrators, the Bhaskar team found out that on an average Rs 1.06 lakhs per machine were spent on procuring a total of 948 concentrators. According to the website maintained by Rajasthan’s Department of Rural Development, in many areas of Bhilwara, Rajsamand, Kota, Nagaur, Jhunjhunu, Alwar, Baran and Chittor, concentrators cost were bought as much as Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.25 lakhs.
Besides, while handing out contracts for the concentrators, the Rajasthan government did not take into account companies and individuals with a shady past and were involved in earlier scams. As a result, concentrators were bought from the company of a man who was accused of taking commission in the NHM scam that took place 5 years ago.
Furthermore, the investigation team discovered that not only were the oxygen concentrators procured at premium charges, but they were also markedly inefficient. At one of the COVID centres in Bandukia, the team found the purity of oxygen from the concentrators to be only 30 per cent at 5 liters per minute. Similarly, at other places too, the team found the concentrators to be highly inefficient.
Despite paying 2 to 3 times the actual cost, the concentrators procured by the Rajasthan government were woefully inefficient. Even the hospitals in Rajasthan raised their objection over the faulty concentrators purchased by the state government. The Bharatpur Medical College shot off a letter to the state government officials in Jaipur, lodging a protest against the substandard concentrators fobbed off to them. They alleged in the letter that the concentrators did not meet the conditions mentioned by them.
Several doctors and MLAs from various districts had written to the state government, informing them that the substandard oxygen concentrators they had procured were inefficient and not fit to use for COVID-19 patients.
Rajasthan leases out unused ventilators sourced through PM Cares Fund to private hospitals
The explosive revelation made by Dainik Bhaskar once again brings forth the Rajasthan government’s disastrous and potentially criminal handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier in May, it was also reported that thousands of ventilators procured through PM Cares Fund were lying unused in hospitals across the state or were leased out to private hospitals at hefty charges, citing non-usage.
Bharatpur’s Rai Bahadur Hospital had leased out 20 of its ventilators provided by the PM Cares Fund to Jindal private hospital, citing ‘non-usage of the machine. The report comes at a time when the coronavirus outbreak is galloping across the country, leading to rising demand for life-support machines. The development exposes Ashok Gehlot-led Rajasthan government that allowed renting out ventilators that were procured from PM Cares Fund to the private hospitals.
Disgruntled by the state government’s move to lease out ventilators when the cases have been on the rise, one of the aggrieved kin while speaking to Republic TV said: “About 40 ventilators were given to the state by the PM-CARES fund. I have been asking the hospital administration for the last 2 months as to where have they installed the ventilators, but they have no answers to my questions. Jindal Hospital, which has always been in controversy, was given 10 ventilators by the hospital administration. The collector justified the decision by saying that the ventilators were faulty, but they were not. Jindal hospital has been charging Rs 35,000-40,000 for these ventilators.”