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

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

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.

RSS love for 'killer' Myanmar junta behind Indian military presence at Tatmadaw Day?

By Shamsul Islam*  If a shameful act means an action which is criminal and nauseating, it would be an understatement to describe the attitude of the present RSS-BJP rulers of India towards the demolition of democracy and large-scale killing of the people of Myanmar by the military ( tatmadaw ) junta which took power through a coup on February 1, 2021 after renegading the election results in which the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, was a clear winner.

Chhattisgarh’s Apra riverfront imitates Sabarmati: 'Devaluing' water, environment

Sabarmati riverfront By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  This year’s #WorldWaterDay (March 22) focus was on ‘Valuing Water’. My school friend, Pragati Tiwari from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, called that day knowing my interest in water matters. We were remembering our childhood days as how we used to play on the banks and the bed of the Arpa Nadi (River) during the summer holidays and as how the river would swell like Anaconda to flow happily during the monsoon.

Bihar massacre on Holi day: Brahminical, casteist mindset behind 'uneasy' silence

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Several people were killed in Bihar amidst Holi festivities, but not much response has come in from the media. The silence of the government and the society as a whole is also appalling. We seek to romanticise these festivals, yet we forget that every year they take so many lives. This despite the fact that Holi appears to be the best time for 'avenging things'.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.

Gujarat religious freedom amendment bill 'pursues' votebank politics, is anti-minority

Gujarat home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja  By Our Representative  A Gujarat-based minority rights organisation, taking strong exception to the state assembly last week passing the Gujarat Religious Freedom (Amendment) Bill, 2021, has asserted that the proposed law “is completely unconstitutional”, even as asking the Gujarat governor to give his accent to it.

Anti-untouchability move? Dalits to 'mint' brass coin to be laid beneath new Parliament

By Rajiv Shah Gujarat’s top Dalit rights organisation, Navsarjan Trust, is all set to initiate a unique campaign under which families from different parts of the country will contribute a brass article or a utensil -- all of it will be melted and minted into a 1111 milligram diameter coin with the question engraved on it: Will the 1947 dream of untouchability-free India be reality yin 2047?