Even as opposition Congress Party alleges a ‘ventilator scam’ by the Modi government, information provided the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) reveal that the first batch of 30,000 ventilators are being procured at Rs 5.05 lakh each, and suggests that more allocations may need to be made towards the purchase of ventilators.
According to a reply furnished to Delhi-based Navneet Chaturvedi, the government has already committed Rs 1,514 cr — out of a total of Rs 2,000 cr set apart for purchasing ventilators — to buy the first batch of 30,000 units.
Ventilators are devices that pump oxygen into the human body when the lungs become dysfunctional due to infection or other factors.
MORE FUNDS NEEDED?
It was on June 23 that the government announced that it would allocate Rs 2,000 cr from PM CARES Fund to purchase 50,000 ventilators, at an average of Rs 4 lakh each.
However, given that the first batch of ventilators — ordered from public sector unit Bharat Electronics Ltd — costing Rs 5.05 lakh each, the remaining allocation is enough to purchase only 9,624 more such machines.
According to the Purchase Order issued to BEL, the Bangalore-based company — the biggest supplier of defence equipment to India’s forces — will provide ventilator model CV 200 as well as installation and training for the price.
Meanwhile, opposition Congress Party has alleged that ventilators cost only Rs 1.5 lakh each.
“AgVa Healthcare had quoted a price of Rs 1,50,000 per ventilator,” alleged spokesperson Govind Vallabh on Tuesday. “When the ventilator is available at Rs 1,50,000 per piece then why PM CARES had allocated Rs 4,00,000 per ventilator? Where is this extra money going?”
Independent market inquiries by Ultra News revealed that Chinese-made ventilators, or those assembled from Chinese parts, were available in the Indian market at prices ranging from Rs 1.5 to 5.0 lakh.
“We were not making these machines at all in India,” said an industry veteran. “And different companies were supplying ventilators sources from China at different prices, based on the quality and configuration.”
“The cheapest models were being sold for Rs 1.5 lakh and the high-end models for Rs 5 lakh. However, due to worldwide demand, prices of ventilators have increased steeply in the last two months,” he added.
The reply under Right To Information provided on June 25 suggests that the government had not, as of that date, placed the orders for the remaining 20,000 ventilators.
The RTI query had asked for the full details and purchase orders for all the ventilators and PPE kits being purchased using PM-CARES fund. However, MoHFW’s response contained only the purchase order issued to BEL, suggesting that purchase orders had not been issued to other vendors yet.
According to a statement issued by the government two days earlier, an order for 10,000 ventilators was to be issued to AgVa Healthcare, another for 9,650 ventilators to AMTZ and one for 350 ventilators to Allied Medical — taking the total to 50,000.
The PMO statement of June 22 also revealed that only 2,923 ventilators had been manufactured (under government purchase orders).
“By the end of this month [June], additional 14,000 ventilators will be delivered to all states or UTs,” the statement promised, possibly referring to more stocks coming from BEL.
The purchase order issued to BEL reveals that the order was placed on April 3 this year, almost three months before the statement, and soon after the nationwide lock-down was imposed.
The RTI query also asked for the names of the companies who got the contracts for supplying PPE (personal protective equipment) kits.
The ministry said the order has been placed with HLL Lifecare Ltd, another government sector company.