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PM-CARES Paid Only for Three Quarters of Ventilators Ordered In April, RTI Query Finds

A senior health ministry official said that 16,000 ventilators which were mostly from private manufacturers had not yet been installed even after the second wave of coronavirus. 

New Delhi: Only Rs 1,532 crore has been released for the purchase and distribution of ventilators from the PM-CARES fund, as per a reply filed by the Union health ministry in response to a Right to Information (RTI) query of Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), according to a report in The Hindu.

A year ago, the Union government, in a release, had stated that Rs 2,000 crore had been allocated for the supply of 50,000 “Made in India” ventilators to government-run COVID hospitals.

An official said that remaining money from the fund is awaiting clearance.

A senior health ministry official told the national daily that 16,000 ventilators which were mostly from private manufacturers had not yet been installed even after the second wave of coronavirus.

Additionally, the RTI reply by the health ministry estimates the cost of the 50,000 ventilators to be Rs 2,147 crore, while the PM-CARES fund has allocated Rs 2,000 crore for the same. The health ministry official said that the bill for Rs 2,147 crore had been sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, but the payment for it was still pending. While the government has maintained that the PM CARES fund is private, PMO officials administer the fund “on an honorary basis”.

On April 3, 2020, the ministry had placed a purchase order for 58,850 ventilators for Rs 2,332.22 crore, as per the RTI reply. Of them, 30,000 ventilators were to be provided from state-run defence manufacturer Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and the rest from private companies via the Ministry’s procurement agency Hindustan Lifecare Ltd (HLL).

Also read: Behind Ahmedabad’s Ventilator Controversy, a Backstory of Connections to Top BJP Leaders

On May 13, 2020, the PM CARES Fund stated that it would pay for 50,000 ventilators at a cost of Rs 2,000 crore. The RTI response showed that this included all the BEL ventilators and the 20,000 ventilators being procured by the HLL.

Bharat Electronics has now been paid Rs 1,497.34 crore out of its order value of Rs 1,513.92 crore. The PSU manufacturer has delivered and installed 29,750 of its 30,000 ventilators, said a senior official.

However, of the initial order of 58,850 ventilators, only 42,000 ventilators have been installed, as per the ministry official. Over 16,000 ventilators ordered from private manufacturers have yet to be installed.

As per the RTI, Rs 35.36 crore has been released to HLL by the PM CARES fund. “The amount for 20,000 ventilators procured through HLL comes to Rs 633.28 crore. And the bill for the same has been given to the PMO. However, no payment has been released so far except the advance Rs 35.36 crore. The file is under process in PMO,” said the official and hinted that the delay may be due to the tardy delivery of privately manufactured machines.

“Within one week’s time, all the ventilators will be allocated and there is going to be a meeting with all the companies and the States about installing them immediately. Some ventilators have not been installed because there is no provision in the facility,” the official said.

Last month, a report claimed that a quarter of the ventilators given to Jharkhand by the central government were not functional and needed repair or replacement of missing parts.

Of the 663 ventilators that the state received, it was found, at the time of their installation, that 164 ventilators or 24.73% of the total could not be used as had some mechanical defects or some parts missing.

A similar claim of faulty ventilators funded by PM-CARES was made by three government hospitals in the Chandigarh Union Territory, which wrote to the Union government.