The Indian government has decided to accept contributions from abroad for the Prime Minister’s Citizen Relief and Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) fund ,created to carry out relief efforts in the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak, and similar emergencies in the future. The decision marks a shift from India;s earlier position of refusing foreign donations during crises.
People familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity the decision was in line with the unprecedented situation created by the Coronavirus outbreak that has resulted in more than 850,000 infections and around 42,000 deaths worldwide.
“The pandemic is unprecedented and when the prime minister spoke to envoys [via video conference on Monday], he asked them to make efforts for contributions towards this fund. A decision has been taken to accept contributions from abroad in the PM-CARES Fund,” said one of the people.
The PM-CARES Fund was set up in view of several spontaneous requests from India and abroad for making contributions to support the government’s relief efforts in the wake of Covid-19, the people said.
Contributions to the fund can be made by individuals and organisations, both in India and abroad, in view of the expressed interest to contribute to the government’s efforts and keeping in mind the “unprecedented nature” of the pandemic, the people said.
In 2018, the government refused all foreign aid, including a reported offer of $100 million from the United Arab Emirates, for disaster relief following floods in Kerala that displaced millions of people. Offers of help from Thailand, Qatar and the Maldives too were declined.
This was in line with a long-standing policy put in place after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and at the time, the external affairs ministry had said in a statement that the “government is committed to meeting the requirements for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts”.
The people cited above pointed out that no overseas government had so far come forward to donate to the PM-CARES Fund, which has largely attracted pledges from non-resident Indians (NRIs) and people of Indian origin based in several countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed the heads of Indian missions around the world to explore the possibility of sourcing medical equipment needed to fight Covid-19 – especially personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, ventilators, and three-ply, surgical and N95 masks – as there is a huge shortage of such products in the country, the people said.
In the case of China, some relief materials were coming to India from independent sources as donations while the mission in Beijing is looking at procuring available equipment on a commercial basis, the people said.
“The embassy in Beijing is working on this and we are looking at various options and sources,” said a second person. “There is a huge shortage and we will source materials from wherever they are available.”
At the same time, domestic companies are being encouraged by the health and textile ministries to ramp up production of PPE and medical equipment, the people said.
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