The Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday finally revealed that it will allocate Rs 3,000 crore from PM CARES (Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations) Fund to buy ventilators and help migrant workers. The PMO said that while a sum of approximately Rs 2000 crore had been earmarked for the purchase of ventilators, Rs 1000 crores will be used for the care of migrant workers. Another Rs 100 crore has been allocated to support vaccine development.
The trust, which came into existence on 27 March after the nationwide lockdown was announced, is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the other ex-officio members of the trust being the Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.
PM Modi said that ‘for augmenting the infrastructure to tackle COVID-19 cases across the country, 50000 ‘Made-in-India’ ventilators will be purchased from PM CARES Fund at a cost of approximately Rs 2000 Crores.’ “These ventilators will be provided to government-run COVID hospitals in all States/UTs, for better treatment of the critical COVID-19 cases,” a statement by the PMO added.
The PMO also said that Rs 1,000 crore will be provided to state governments and Union Territories to ‘place it at the disposal of the District Collectors/Municipal Commissioners for strengthening their efforts in providing accommodation facilities, making food arrangements, providing medical treatment and making transportation arrangements of the migrants.’
The statement said, “State/UT-wise funds will be released on the weightage of (a) Population of the State/UT as per 2011 Census – 50%, weightage (b) Number of positive COVID-19 cases as on date – 40% weightage and (c) Equal share (10% weightage) for all states/UTs to ensure basic minimum sum for all states. The fund will be released to the District Collector/District Magistrate/Municipal Commissioner through the State Disaster Relief Commissioner of the States/UTs concerned.”
The announcement came even as hundreds of thousands of migrants workers remained stranded across the country with many taking to roads to travel hundreds of kilometres by foot to return to their native places as the prolonged lockdown crippled their lives. Photos and videos of desperate migrant workers undertaking arduous journeys have gone viral on social media platforms prompting the government to start special train services to ferry them to their native places. However, this has proved to be a too-little-too-late step as scores continued to remain stranded in the absence of money and food in different parts of the country.
The PMO said that Rs 100 crore had been earmarked to support the development of COVID-19 vaccine. The announcement came hours after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman shared details on PM Modi’s much-publicised economic package to revive the economy. Reacting to the announcement made by Sitharaman, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said that the Centre’s Narendra Modi government was ‘a prisoner of its own ignorance and fears.’