Representational image of ventilators
Representational image of ventilators

Several members of the BJP on Monday began tweeting that India will be getting 50,000 more ventilators in addition to the 47,000 that have been around so far in public and private hospitals. Notably, 100 of these ventilators arrived from the United States yesterday,

Taking the lead on this, National In-Charge of Social Media, BJP Mahila Morcha, Priti Gandhi said, “For those asking, in the last 70 years, India got a total of 47,000 ventilators in public & private hospitals. With #PMCARES, in one stroke, India will get 50,000 more ventilators!”

The PM-CARES fund was formed in March this year for fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic and any similar issues that might arise in the future. In recent days, ordinary citizens and celebrities alike have come forward to donate to the fund.

'47,000 ventilators in 70 years, 50,000 with PM Cares': BJP hails PM Modi amid fight against coronavirus pandemic
PM CARES - screenshot

Several other BJP leaders tweeted the same, citing a research paper published by independent think-tank The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. Speaking to FPJ, Gandhi said that she had tweeted the information after receiving information from top sources and the party would be releasing an official statement claiming the same.

However, this series of tweets has not gone down well with doctors - some of whom have been followers of the BJP for several years. One of them, Dr Jagdish Hiremath, a ventilator expert, as his bio suggests, tweeted this.

As per a Bangalore Mirror report from the end of May, Hiremath is an intensivist and also the managing director of the Ace Suhas Hospital and Ace Embedded Intensive Care Units. Reportedly, he had worked with Skanray and Mahindra and Mahindra to help them create ventilators using auto components, utilising his knowledge of ventilator design development and its use in an ICU.

The research paper, which was reportedly done in association with Princeton University, was published in April this year. The report conducted a study at a time India has 4,700 COVID-19 cases. Currently, India has over 3.3 lakh cases, and is only behind the United States, Brazil and Russia when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases.

“The availability of data on inpatient care and critical care capacity in India is limited, creating uncertainty surrounding whether the country can accommodate mass hospitalisation at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said.

The report also had collected the number of ventilators in all private and public hospitals, which summed up to 47,481. A report in the Indian Express in April also showed that India would require an estimated 27 million N95 masks, 15 million PPEs, 1.6 million diagnostic kits, and 50,000 ventilators by June 2020. A report in the Hindu also cited that the Ministry of Health had announced 40,000 new ventilators would be set up at hospitals across the country

In March this year, Maharashtra reported 450 ventilators, according to this Times of India report. The state has the highest number of coronavirus-infected patients in the country, with just around 1/3rd of the COVID-19 hailing from Maharashtra

An Economic Times report on May 13 said that trust will allocate Rs 3,100 crore to fight the novel coronavirus, but did not get into the specifics on how the money would be distributed. However, there is no information of how much money has been donated into the fund as yet.

When an RTI query was sought seeking state-wise allocation of the money, it was rejected on grounds that it wasn’t a public authority. The person who filed the RTI was told to visit the website for more information.

A few days ago, SARC & Associates was appointed as the auditor of PM CARES, even as the opposition has raised questions about PM CARES Fund is being kept out of the audit purview of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). Last month, interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi had even written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging the Centre to "transfer all money under PM-CARES fund to the Prime Ministers National Relief Fund".

The PMNRF has a similar role to PM-CARES, but has so traditionally been used to combat crises such as floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters, explosions, fire-related accidents, bus or rail accidents and so on.Interestingly, PMNRF was not constituted by the Parliament. "The fund is recognised as a Trust under the Income Tax Act and the same is managed by Prime Minister or multiple delegates for national causes," the website adds.

While the debate about the PM-CARES and PMNRF will continue, it’s still uncertain how the BJP team have the exact count of 50,000 ventilators, given that there is no available information on the website, but it’s only a matter of time before we see how the Rs 3,100 crore is distributed amongst the states and UTs. With the number of patients not going down any time soon, maybe it’s time for the PMO to share how the funds are actually distributed for COIVD-19 so that the people of India can feel a bit reassured.

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Free Press Journal