New Delhi | Updated: May 13, 2021 8:14:34 am
NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant speaks with Amitabh Sinha about medical supplies being received from abroad to battle the pandemic, and allocations being made to the states. Excerpts:
How are foreign supplies being managed? Who can order or receive these supplies?
There are three channels — government to government, private to government, and donations to states/NGOs and civil society organisations. In government-to-government transactions, the consignee is the Indian Red Cross Society, and the aid is being routed through Ministry of External Affairs to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for allocation to states. There is a standard operating procedure (SOP) for allocation, which takes into account the case load and other factors such as whether the region serves as a medical hub, is resource low or geographically disconnected.
The private-to-government transaction is happening through a portal called COVAID (covaid.niti.gov.in), managed by NITI Aayog. There is a blanket exemption from Customs/IGST and donors can fill their intent of donation, specifics, consignment number, etc. The aid is received by IRCS and allocations done by MoHFW. The process is transparent and allows donors to track status of their shipments.
The third channel is through states, NGOs and civil society organisations directly to those impacted by Covid-19. A nodal officer has been appointed for each state/UT and a pre-information form can be filled which will help facilitate speedy customs clearance.
Nine-five per cent of received items have already been delivered, and the remaining are in transit. Not a single item is held up or delayed.
What all have we ordered, and from how many countries?
Eighty-seven consignments have been received so far, of which 64 are through government-to-government channel, while 23 have come through private-to-government channel. Liquid oxygen is being brought in through ships from Bahrain, UAE and France via Qatar. The major items which have arrived include oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, ventilators, oxygen generating plants, rapid detection kits as well as drugs such as remdesivir.
In addition, we have received numerous other drugs, liquid oxygen cylinders, nasal canula, masks, PPE kits, sanitisers, pulse oximeters, etc. The highest overall aid has been received from the US, the UK, Israel, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and the UAE.
There have been reports that consignments have been held up at Customs, or are otherwise being delayed.
All items received until May 9 have been delivered the next day. Between May 9 and May 11, we have received more items from South Korea, UAE, Egypt, UK, Kuwait, Israel, USA and Netherlands. All of this has been immediately dispatched and is either in transit or has been delivered. There is absolutely no consignment which has been held up for Customs’ clearance or any other reason.
How is the allocation being made to the states?
The criteria for allocation is very transparent. Since aid is limited, an optimal use of resources will have to be made. Therefore, priority will be given to high-case burden states. We are also giving focus to states/cities which are medical hubs and see inflow of patients from neighbouring states and cities.
If we look at some numbers, Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, has received over 400 ventilators, over 26,000 vials of remdesivir and almost 10,000 rapid test kits, among various supplies. Three hundred ventilators and over 55,000 doses of remdesivir have been given to Maharashtra. In Bihar, 10,000 rapid test kits have been delivered, as have over 300 ventilators. In Chhattisgarh, besides other equipment, 300 concentrators and 40,000 rapid test kits have been given.
The allocations have been done with a lot of strategic thinking. We are also ensuring…that disconnected and resource-low states do not experience difficulties. If we look at the Northeast (where tankers cannot reach easily and quickly), as well as Andaman and Nicobar Islands, between them they have received 1,200 oxygen concentrators. This has been done to ensure higher levels of preparedness, even though population density and caseloads (there) are much lower.
How is the private sector chipping in?
The private sector has been complementing the efforts of the government in a significant way. Tata Trusts, for instance, will set up a 1,200 bed facility in Gandhinagar, and have helped set up the Sardar Patel COVID Care Centre in Delhi. Reliance, India’s largest producer of medical oxygen, is playing a major role in oxygen supplies to several states. L&T is working on a war footing to build medical grade oxygen generating units.
Escorts is setting up a 1,000-bed hospital in Faridabad; Honda and Hero Moto Corp are setting 100-bedded hospitals each. INOX Air Products, Linde, JSW Steel, etc. are all playing a pivotal role in providing oxygen across the country.
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