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Sunday, May 09, 2021

When will Chandigarh use Rs. 28 crore Covid cess?

Chandigarh in dire need of beds with O2 and ventilators; this money can buy equipment and help health department with manpower.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh |
May 5, 2021 10:21:24 am
Chandigarh, COVID-19Oxygen cylinders at Covid care centre at Bal Bhawan, Sector 23, Chandigarh. (File)

Even though it has been a month since the Covid-19 case count began to shoot up, it is only now that Chandigarh Municipal Corporation has stirred to pen a letter seeking permission to use the Rs 28-crore Covid cess for the purchase of vaccines, medicines and other important equipment like oxygen cylinders.

It was last year that the Municipal Corporation collected over Rs 28 crore as cess in just seven and a half months. The aim was to raise a corpus that could be spent to tide over any emergency caused by the marauding virus.

Even though the second wave of coronavirus has been wreaking havoc on the city, the emergency beds are full, and the social media is flooded with calls for O2, the cess is yet to be used.

MC Commissioner KK Yadav, while speaking to The Indian Express, said, “After the decision of the House last week, we have sent a letter to the local government about the cess and that the health department should be asked to list its requirements so that the cess can be used. The MC House wanted it to be utilized for buying vaccines and other life-saving equipment or drugs.”

The COVID cess was imposed in May end last year and was collected till December 31.

No time to waste on letters

Criticising the delay in release of the cess, Leader of opposition and Congress councillor Devinder Singh Babla said it is time for action, not bureaucratic formalities.

“The House meeting was held last week, how much time does it take it act? Just let the Commissioner sit with Director, PGI, Director Health Services and other experts to find out about the equipment they need to fight corona and release the required funds,” said Babla.

He added, “If administration or corporation wants, they can set up Covid care centres with ventilators in one day. What is it that we want? Oxygen beds and ventilators. Rs 28 crore is a huge amount and it can easily buy both.”

Councillors get 80 lakh, but want to use only 5 lakh for Covid care

Besides the cess collected from the city residents, the city councillors get Rs 80 lakh each as ward development fund, but at the House meeting last week they sought to give only Rs 5 lakh each out of their WDF for Covid-related emergencies. Experts say if a councillor wants, he can meet the medical expenses of the people in his ward with the WDF. The adviser Manoj Parida has been urging people to come forward and set up Covid care centres at the community centres but not one councillor has come forward.

Rs. 30 crore can buy over 6000 oxygen concentrators

Doctors are saying early induction of O2 in Covid treatment can save lives. Given that an oxygen concentrator costs around Rs 50,000, the cess can be used to buy 6000 such concentrators, and save innumerable lives.

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