New Delhi: 64 percent of the ₹ 10,990 crore collected by the PM CARES Fund between March 27, 2020, and March 31, 2021, remained unused as of the latter date, according to data accessed by NDTV.
As of March 2021, the PM CARES Fund – set up by the Narendra Modi government 12 months earlier with the aim of securing financial donations to help fight COVID-19 – was sitting on ₹ 7,014 crore.
Billed as a “dedicated fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency… and provide relief to the affected”, PM CARES spent just ₹ 3,976 crore in the first year of its operation.
This was despite receiving ₹ 7,679 crore in donations in the Financial Year 2021 to add to an opening balance of ₹ 3,077 crore from Financial Year 2020 and income from interest amounting to ₹ 235 crore.
Of the donations received, ₹ 495 were from foreign sources.
However, PM CARES spent just ₹ 3,976 crore as of March last year.
Rs 1,392 crore was used to buy 6.6 crore Covid vaccine doses.
Rs 1,311 crore was used to buy 50,000 ‘made in India’ ventilators.
However, on more than one occasion ventilators purchased with PM CARES funds were found to either be defective or remain unused because of a lack of trained medical staff.
In November last year 100 ventilators failed a trial run in J&K. In May NDTV reported that ventilators in hospitals in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were unused for want of people to operate them.
Meanwhile, only ₹ 1,000 crore was also set aside for the welfare of the country’s migrant populations, whose horrific plight during the 2020 lockdown made headlines worldwide.
Other listed expenses were ₹ 201.58 crore to set up 162 oxygen generation plants in the aftermath of the devastating second Covid wave, which triggered an acute oxygen supply crisis across India.
Rs 20.41 crore was spent on upgrading the government-run labs to test and release Covid vaccines.
Rs 50 crore was used to set up two Covid-dedicated hospitals in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur and Patna, as well as 16 labs to test RT-PCR samples in as many states.
PM CARES has been under a cloud of suspicion ever since it was announced, with opposition parties demanding transparency over the handling of the funds. The Congress has been among the most vocal of its critics, with Rahul Gandhi demanding the government clarify the nature of the fund.
That was after NDTV reported on a clause in documents that exempt PM CARES from RTI scrutiny, for which reason a RTI request filed by NDTV was rejected.