AHMEDABAD VENTILATOR CONTROVERSY

Guest blog by Deepanshu

The High court remarks

 Gujarat high court recently observed that the condition in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital is pathetic and that it appears to be in an extremely bad shape. The bench went a step further to add that the hospital, as of now, is as good as a dungeon; maybe even worse. Gujarat has always been portrayed as a model of good and efficient governance but such critical remarks from the high court pose a serious question on the efficiency of the state government over handling of Covid-19 pandemic.

What went wrong- Connecting the Dots!

Ahmedabad is the second hardest hit city in India by the pandemic with a mortality rate of nearly 6.5%, almost double the national average. In Gujarat, Ahmedabad accounts for nearly 74% of total cases and 80% of total fatalities. A controversy had uncovered when senior doctors at the hospital had claimed that DHAMAN-1 ventilator, which were gifted by a Rajkot-based firm Jyoti CNC, is not actually a ventilator but an AMBU ( Artificial Manual Breathing Unit ) bag. But the chief minister has been vouching for Dhaman-1 ventilator publicly and these ventilators have been portrayed as GLORIOUS ACHIEVEMENT. Also, Jayant Ravi, Gujarat government health secretary, stated that these “ventilators” were certified by Gujarat govt. Laboratory and that the product had fulfilled the parameters for ventilator procurement by the Centre’s high-powered procurement committee. Interestingly, the firm Jyoti CNC’s CMD, it is believed, has close connections with CM Vijay Rupani and PM Modi. The central government has placed an order for 5000 Dhaman-1 ventilators from Jyoti CNC through State-run HLL Lifecare which is most likely a part of a tender process kicked off by HLL Lifecare in March 2020. This is not the first time we have seen a quid pro quo in exchange for campaign donations. It is, however, unclear whether this procurement process is being supported out of the newly formed PM CARES fund or not.

Lack of transparency- PM ‘cares’?

On March 28, 2020 PM Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, or the PM CARES Fund, was set up to tackle distress situations like the one we are witnessing right now. PM Modi is the chairperson of PM CARES fund while the Ministers of Defence, Home Affairs and Finance are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund. This fund doesn’t come under the ambit of the RTI or the CAG. The webpage of PM CARES fund doesn’t contain any information about the total amount collected so far, the Expenditure of the Fund or the list of beneficiaries. Further, the corporate donations to the fund have been allowed to be counted as CSR ( Corporate Social Responsibility ), a facility which is not available in case of PMNRF or CMRFs. It remains to be seen whether the particulars of the Fund will be made public in the near future or not but right now there is no way to know how the money of this Fund is being spent.

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