COVID-19 crisis | Centre faces questions over how it plans to use foreign aid

France sends 8 oxygen generators to India.

May 02, 2021 12:30 pm | Updated November 30, 2021 06:39 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Medical supplies and relied materials are loaded into a cargo plane to India at Roissy airport, north of Paris, Saturday, May 1, 2021.

Medical supplies and relied materials are loaded into a cargo plane to India at Roissy airport, north of Paris, Saturday, May 1, 2021.

France delivered eight oxygen plants on Sunday, four of which government sources said would be used for hospitals in Delhi, as questions were put to the Centre on the use of foreign aid.

The consignment of about 28 tonnes of equipment sent by the French government to India was delivered to the Indian Red Cross Society at the Delhi airport and then transferred to the Centre.

The sources said each of the eight “hospital level” oxygen generators would provide oxygen for about 250 beds each, and comes as more deaths due to oxygen shortage at hospitals were reported, including 12 patients who died at Delhi’s Batra Hospital on Saturday.

“Each of these oxygen generator plants will make an Indian hospital fully oxygen Aatmanirbhar for more than 10 years. I believe healthcare can be a new field to develop our strategic partnership, building on our respective strengths,” said France’s Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain in a statement.

Medical supplies and relied materials to be sent to India are pictured at Roissy airport, north of Paris, Saturday, May 1, 2021.

Medical supplies and relied materials to be sent to India are pictured at Roissy airport, north of Paris, Saturday, May 1, 2021.

The French Embassy also confirmed that the oxygen generators had been earmarked for eight specific hospitals, and that six would go to the Delhi/NCR area, and one each to Telengana and Haryana. The statement is a major departure from the government’s policy of not accepting aid that is “tied” to specific donees, and comes in the wake of a number of calls for the government to be more transparent about how it plans to route the massive shipments of aid coming in from about 40 countries.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials told The Hindu that the process on how to route the funding, which is handed over by foreign governments through the Indian Red Cross to the Ministry of Health, is being coordinated by an Empowered Group of Ministers and officials, which is fielding the requests from various State governments.

 

“Whatever is coming in from abroad is going to the Ministry of Health and then, depending on need, will be processed. Only some of the countries who have offered aid have delivered so far; we are monitoring them on the basis of logistics and the time frame they are being sent,” said Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary of the Health Ministry, in a briefing.

The US National Airlines cargo flight that brought in around 100 tons of supplies at the Delhi airport on May 2, 2021.

The US National Airlines cargo flight that brought in around 100 tons of supplies at the Delhi airport on May 2, 2021.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department in Washington also fielded questions about the lack of a “website or transparent system”, as well as “accountability for the U.S. taxpayers’ money being sent.”

Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter replied that the U.S. had no response at the time, adding, “Rest assured that the United States is committed to making sure that our partners in India are taken care of in this crisis.”

When asked, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi’s spokesperson said that the U.S. is providing more than $100 million in assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and that three of six planeloads of equipment and relief supplies had already been delivered, and the remainder is “on its way”

“We refer you to the Government of India for information about the deployment and use of these materials subsequent to their transfer,” the spokesperson added, in a statement to The Hindu.

On Sunday, the third U.S. aid shipment, containing 1,000 oxygen cylinders, was delivered at the Delhi airport. Overnight, Germany sent a shipment including 120 ventilators, and plans to send one mobile oxygen production and filling plant along with 13 German technical personnel later this week. Uzbekistan also delivered 100 oxygen concentrators, while Belgium delivered 1,000 vials of the medicine Remdesivir late on Saturday.

Officials said that as several countries including the U.S., Germany and France are sending military and technical personnel to run some of the equipment being sent, the next logistical challenge will also involve ensuring that foreign personnel are assisted locally at the areas where the aid is sent to within the country.

(With inputs from Vijaita Singh)

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