One-third of ₹10,990 crore in PM CARES fund spent: ‘20-’21 audit

₹3,976 crore spent during 2020-21; ₹100 cr promised for vaccine development not allotted

February 07, 2022 11:53 pm | Updated February 08, 2022 09:05 am IST - NEW DELHI

The PM CARES Fund collected ₹10,990 crore since its inception in March 2020 until March 2021. It spent ₹3,976 crore during the 2020-21 financial year, according to the audited financial statement posted on its website. As on March 31, 2021, the Fund had an unspent balance of ₹7,044 crore.

The Fund was set up to deal with “any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected.” During the year, funds were disbursed for COVID vaccine purchase and testing, ventilators, hospitals, testing labs, oxygen generation plants and migrant welfare. Despite an earlier announcement that ₹100 crore would be spent on supporting vaccine development, no such disbursal seems to have been done.

The Fund was established on March 27, 2020 and collected ₹3,076 crore — including an initial corpus, foreign and domestic contributions, and interest — within the first five days of its existence, before the end of the 2019-20 financial year. In the financial year 2020-21, it received voluntary contributions from domestic donors to the tune of ₹7,184 crore and foreign contributions amounting to ₹494 crore. Along with interest, and a ₹25 lakh refund of unspent balance from the National Disaster Management Authority, the Fund’s total receipts for the year amounted to ₹7,193 crore.

On the expenditure side, the largest disbursal of ₹1,393 crore went to purchase 6.6 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Another ₹1,311 crore was used to buy 50,000 Made in India ventilators for use in Central and State government hospitals. As The Hindu has previously reported, doctors and hospitals in several States have raised concerns about the quality of some of these ventilators, with others lying idle due to technical issues.

Other measures to improve health infrastructure included ₹201 crore spent on installing and operationalising 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption medical oxygen generation plants inside public health facilities, and ₹50 crore to establish two makeshift COVID hospitals in Muzaffarnagar and Patna with 500 beds each, and to set up 16 RT-PCR testing labs in nine States and Union Territories.

Over ₹20 crore was used to upgrade two autonomous institute laboratories under the Department of Biotechnology as Central Drug Laboratories to test and release batches of the COVID-19 vaccine.

A sum of ₹1,000 crore was allotted to States and Union Territories for the welfare of migrants, many of whom were left stranded by lockdowns due to COVID-19.

On May 13, 2020, a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office had said funds would be allotted for vaccine development. “A vaccine against COVID-19 is the most pressing need and Indian academia, start-ups and industry have come together in cutting-edge vaccine design and development. To support the COVID-19 vaccine designers and developers, an amount of ₹100 crore will be given from PM CARES Fund as a helping hand to catalyse vaccine development, which will be utilized under the supervision of Principal Scientific Advisor,” said the statement.

However, such a sum was not allotted for this purpose according to the audited financial statement for the year.

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