Prime Minister Modi’s Office in a Damage Control Mode
May 15, 2020. Washington DC. Within twenty-four hours of sending the letter to the World Bank expressing concerns over the way in which COVID 19 related funds, including the nature and functioning of a newly created “PM CARES FUND” in India are handled, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) went into a damage control mode and made a U-Turn by making few details public.
A few weeks ago, the PMO refused to divulge any information on this mysterious “Prime Minister Cares” fund created in a hurry while there is “Prime Minister’s Relief Fund” already available for the same purposes.
On Monday, May 11, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) and Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC) sent a multifaith letter to the World Bank expressing concerns over how COVID 19 related funds are handled by the Indian government. Thirty-four different organizations signed it. The letter suggested the Bank to consider setting up an independent committee of eminent people in India to monitor the $ 1 Billion COVID 19 related relief package approved by the World Bank.
On May 12, Tuesday night, the PMO reversed its position and issued a statement, saying the PM Cares Fund will spend $4.1 Billion (31,000 Crores Rupees) on COVID 19 related expenses.
Out of this amount, the statement indicated that $ 2.7 Billion (2000 Crore Rupees) would be used for buying 50,000 ventilators at the cost of roughly $ 5,330 dollars apiece, and over $ 13 million (1 Billion Rupees) for vaccine development.
While FIACONA and STPC welcome the Prime Minister’s change of heart, we are disappointed that the information revealed is too vague and devoid of necessary details such as, how these contracts are awarded or to whom they are awarded, or if the government invited any bids before awarding the contracts.
FIACONA still would like to insist that Prime Minister Modi come clean with public funds and not treat it as his private slush fund.
FIACONA believes that the lending institutions must have the confidence that the funds provided are used efficiently and transparently by the Modi government. But as of now, such confidence and transparency are lacking. Hence, setting up an independent committee made up of eminent people in India becomes essential to monitor the use of funds offered by the World Bank. Leaving it to the designs of the Modi government, especially after having seen their track record, would be an invitation to corruption and disaster of handling such funds.
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