Coronavirus India: Centre Approves Rs 15,000 Crore Emergency Response Package

The Centre on April 8, has approved the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness package aimed at strengthening national along with state health systems to support procurement of essential medical equipment and drugs, also encouraging of surveillance activities.

Government of India approved Rs 15,000 crores for ‘India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package’ said the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The “COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package” will be executed in three phases – January to June 2020, from July 2020 to March 2021 and from April 2021 to March 2024. The Health Ministry stated the 100 per cent centrally funded package would be divided amongst all states and union territories.

Activities to be funded under this scheme include the development of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, ICUs (intensive care unit) with ventilators oxygen supply in hospitals. It also includes strengthening of laboratories–including setting up laboratories and bio-security preparedness, hiring of additional human resources and incentives to human resource and community health volunteers.

Activities which are covered in the first phase include disinfection of hospitals and government ambulances, as well as the purchase of PPE (personal protection equipment) and N-95 face masks.

India currently has 5,709 active cases, with over 199 deaths. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi are having the highest number of cases. As on April 6, cases have been reported from 284 districts across 28 states and union territories.

The intensity with which the outbreak has been spreading over the past few weeks, has left many states scrambling for funds to fight the virus.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a 21 day nationwide lockdown last month which started from March 25. Non-essential industries, commercial establishments and manufacturing centres – has also been testing states’ economic resilience since the shutdown.

States are cutting salaries, demanding an increase in borrowing limits and asking for fund transfers from the Centre as tax revenues and reserves dry up.

Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have deferment at least portions of the salaries of its employees including the Chief Minister. The Delhi government has stopped all expenditure except the salaries of its employees.

The Centre has also gone into belt-tightening mode, with salaries of union ministers and MPs, starting with the Prime Minister, cut by 30 per cent for the coming year.

Union home ministry approved the release of Rs 11,092 crores under the State Disaster Risk Management Fund (SDRMF), to all States this week. On March 28, the Central Government allowed the States Government to use their respective disaster responsive fund (SDRF).

On April 6, the Centre had decided to suspend the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Fund (MP-LAD) for two years –a sum of Rs 5 crore allotted to MPs every year for their constituencies. The question of the fund to fight the coronavirus pandemic lead to a lot of political issues as well.

Congress MP Karti Chidambaram criticised this decision by calling it “absolutely unacceptable”.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has approved 1 billion dollars to help India prevent, detect and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, plus strengthen its public health.

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