Skip to main content

Covid-19 relief: RTI reply reveals lack of transparency bogs GoI help to Gujarat govt

By Pankti Jog* 
Ever since March 24, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nation-wide lockdown, civil society organizations (CSOs), religious bodies and citizen initiative groups have been working tirelessly to provide food to the lockdown-affected people, especially migrant workers. In fact, an impression has gained ground that government efforts have been minuscule as compared with that of CSOs. Facts in our possession suggest that, frequently, the officialdom has been reporting numbers of how the affected people are being helped from CSO data.
It is not without reason that a simple question that keeps coming to CSO activists' mind is, did the Government of India (GoI) get any funds for direct, including medical, relief? And how much was the fund given by GoI to states? A search on the website of all the key departments of the Gujarat government and the Centre has gone in vein. Hence, we decided to file a Right to Information (RTI) application with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in June, inquiring about how much money was given to the Gujarat government by GoI.
The query was immediately transferred to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, giving the impression that the Union health ministry was supporting the state government to fight Covid-19. In the past, many a time, the state government had blamed the Centre for inadequate disbursement of funds, and it was expected that this time, at least, Gujarat would surely get good amount of support from the Centre to fight the Covid-19 pandemic effectively.
However, the RTI reply that was received from the ministry was surprising, to say the least. It said that the Union health ministry has not given any grants or funds to the state government for fighting the Covid-19 disaster, adding, all that it has given is support in terms of personal protection equipment (PPE), masks and ventilators.
There seems to be lack of transparency and accountability in terms of what actually is being done with IBRD loan amount
The RTI reply revealed that the Union health ministry gave around 15-20 lakh N95 masks, 9.38 lakh PPE kits, 8.5 lakh hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) tablets and 1,504 ventilators. Looking at the population of Gujarat and number of Corona-19 positive cases in the state, this help appears negligible for a population of 6.5 crore.
The GoI is known to have a taken a loan of Rs 7,700 crore from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) on April 3, 2020 for masks, PPEs, testing, laboratory, equipment, recruiting new staff in medical services, treatment, having Covid-19 specialised hospitals, beds, data management, awareness, community participation etc.
The loan proposal and the agreement elaborate how GoI is supposed to use the loan amount for strengthening relief measures, treatment facilities, and increasing awareness level and community participation in the fight against Covid-19. However, from all accounts, there seems to be lack of transparency and accountability in terms of what actually is being done with this loan amount.
The RTI helpline run by the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) has been getting calls (on 099240 85000) inquiring about the number of beds in state government-run Covid-19 hospitals with regard to ventilators, especially from relatives of patients before they decide to opt for a private hospital. 
However, the state government has not cared to declare any details about the 1,504 ventilators GoI has given, especially how these were allocated to different hospitals across the state. Thus Covid-19 relief fund availability and expenses still remains a top secret.
---
*With Maniti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP)

Comments

TRENDING

RSS wanted Constitution 'replaced' by Manusmriti which abused Dalits, women

By Shamsul Islam* The Constituent Assembly of India finalized the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949 which is celebrated as the Constitution Day This Constitution promised new born Indian Republic a polity based on democracy, justice, egalitarianism and rule of law. However, RSS was greatly annoyed. Four days after the historic event of approval of it, the RSS English “Organiser” in an editorial on November 30, 1949, complained:

Devoid of social security, Delhi contract sewer workers get 25-35% less wages: DASAM

By Our Representative  A civil rights group Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) survey of temporary sewer workers working under contract in many areas of Delhi has found that contractors pay wages to the sewer worker only for four months, even though their tender is for six months. Worse, the contractors deduct 25-35% from the wages before giving these to the workers.

Pending GoI wage payments to rural labour reach Rs 5,100 crore: NREGA Morcha

By Our Representative  MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), which is said to have provided a cushion to millions of rural households amidst great economic distress during the Covid-19 pandemic, continues to be bogged with poor implementation, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has alleged.

Once centres of civilisation, Indian cities turning into 'major cause of concern'

By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay*  Each year, October 31 is celebrated as the World Cities Day. The theme this year was Adapting Cities for Climate Resilience. The Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, organized a special lecture on city as environment as part of the discussion under the #WebPolicyTalk series on the State of Cities -- #CityConversations.

Forget 'bheek', by this logic, Gujarat was free of British rule in 1995, 19 yrs before India

The real freedom fighting brigade By Rajiv Shah  Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut may have her own reasons to say that India acquired real freedom in May 2014, when Narendra Modi came to occupy India’s seat of power.  There was little to be amused by what she said, for, as many commentators have variously pointed out, her viewpoint was surely based on her little or no knowledge of the history of the Indian freedom movement.

Nuclear energy 'can't solve' global warming, will 'strain' financial, natural resource

Counterview Desk  Taking strong exception to Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who has favoured nuclear energy as a solution to global warning, well-known power and policy analyst Shankar Sharma has said that the IAEA chief's “unsubstantiated advocacy” of nuclear power is associated with “diversion of considerable amounts of scarce resources, both financial as well as natural, of many developing countries, such as India.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Learning to bridge 'huge chasm' between highly educated, illiterate, badly literate

By Shrey Ostwal, Sandeep Pandey*  The pivotal point of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s journey to become Mahatma Gandhi began when his “political guru” – Gopal Krishna Gokhale – advised young Mohandas to travel around India. This rigorous journey was essential for Mohandas to understand his country and countrypersons better if he were to fight the inhumane and unempathetic British regime which had been looting India of its glory for about two centuries then.

Ironic? A monk from Myanmar seeks to bring back glory of Buddhism to India

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* Kushinagar is celebrating the life and achievements of Bhadant Gyaneshwar Mahasthivir, the Monk in Chief of Mahaparinirvan main temple. He completed his 85th birthday on November 10. Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh is one of the foremost prominent places for the Buddhists all over the world as Buddha delivered his last sermon here and met his ‘Mahaparinirvana’. Recently, Kushinagar was linked with international aviation circuit as a new airport has just been inaugurated here a couple of weeks back.