The Congress on Sunday accused the government of “wasting” the lockdown by not ramping up health infrastructure and procuring “substandard” ventilators that are crucial for critical COVID-19 patients, with Rahul Gandhi charging that “opacity” in the PM Cares Fund is putting lives of Indians at risk.
Using the hashtag “BJPfailsCoronaFight”, Gandhi tweeted, “PMCares opacity is: 1. Putting Indian lives at risk. 2. Ensuring public money is used to buy sub-standard products.”
He also tagged a news report about a private firm providing substandard ventilators, procured using the PM Cares Fund.
The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was set up in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged a “scam” in the purchase of ventilators.
“The ‘Ventilators’ Scam! Out of Rs 2,000 crore allocated for 50,000 ventilators, only 1,340 ventilators delivered till 23rd June. No open tendering. Inferior Quality. Purchase Price of Rs 4 Lakh instead of quoted price of Rs 1.5 Lakh per ventilator,” he said in a tweet.
Congress spokesperson Gaurav Vallabh questioned the government why only 1,340 ventilators could be procured till June 22 whereas it had placed order for 50,000 on March 31.
At a virtual press conference, he expressed concern over the rise in coronavirus infections in the country and accused the government of “wasting time” by not utilising the lockdown period to ramp up the health infrastructure.
He said the actual procurement is against the claim made by BJP president J P Nadda that the country will have 60,000 ventilators by June-end.
Vallabh also alleged “confusion and delay” in ordering ventilators, “financial impropriety” and lack of transparency in spending PM Cares Fund, and supply of “substandard” ventilators.
With a record single-day surge of 24,850 coronavirus infections and 613 fatalities, India’s COVID-19 case load zoomed to 6,73,165, while the death toll due to the disease climbed to 19,268 on Sunday, according to the Union health ministry.
With this, the country has recorded over 20,000 cases of the infection for the third consecutive day.
According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been compiling COVID-19 data from all over the world, India is the fourth worst-hit nation by the pandemic after the US, Brazil and Russia and at the eighth position in terms of the death toll due to the disease.
“The way the corona cases in the country are rising, it is worrisome. I pray that the peak comes soon and this country is freed from the virus,” the Congress spokesperson said.
“Lockdown was a pause button and it should have been used to ramp up health infrastructure. But the government has wasted time and has indulged in mismanagement in procuring ventilators.
“As per the government, only 1,340 ventilators have been procured till June 22, whereas the BJP chief claimed in a virtual rally that the country will have 60,000 ventilators by June-end. Why so few ventilators have been procured in more than 2.5 months. Who is responsible,” he asked.
The Congress leader also said Rs 2,000 crore was allocated from the PM Cares Fund for procuring 50,000 ventilators with each costing around Rs 4 lakh, whereas a company is supplying ventilators to the government at Rs 1.5 lakh only.
“Does the PM Cares order of 50,000 ventilators include 40,000 ordered by the government earlier. Where has the PM CARES money gone and why is there an abnormal delay in procuring them…. Has PM Cares opted for open tendering to ensure transparency in government procurement. The PM Cares funds are also public funds,” he said.
Alleging that substandard material and ventilators are being procured by the government from some private players, Vallabh asked, “Why the government is compromising with the health of people by bringing substandard material.”
He said in the interest of people of our country who are struggling to get out of these challenging and difficult times, the Congress would like to know the answers of questions which are directly related to the well being of citizens of our country.
The opposition leader said in the interest of people who are struggling for their health, the government should answer the questions raised by the Congress party.
He said neither is the government answering questions on the border tussle with China nor is it coming out with facts on the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Prime Minister and the Health Minister should reply to these questions raised by us in the interest of the health of the people of the country,” he said.
Vallabh hoped the government would look into the concerns raised by the party. “We can’t tolerate the iota of confusion, corruption and mistake at these critical times when the number of COVID-19 patients are every day breaking the record of the last day,” he said.