Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday approved the release of Rs 11,092 crore to states to set up quarantine facilities and take other measures to contain the spread of novel coronavirus. Various states have been demanding more Central funds to deal with a surge of COVID-29 infections which has raised pressure on already creaky public health infrastructure. The latest package is released under the first installment of the State Disaster Risk Management Fund (SDRMF).
The move came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Chief Ministers that the Centre will provide necessary assistance to States to combat the epidemic.
"This Fund was allowed to be utilized for setting up quarantine facilities, sample collection and screening; setting up additional testing laboratories, cost of consumables; purchase of personal protection equipments for healthcare, municipal, police and fire authorities; purchase of thermal scanners, ventilators, air purifiers, and consumables for Government hospitals," an official statement said.
The States can also use this money to provide food and shelter to homeless people including migrant labourers, who are stranded due to lockdown measures. India is in the midst of a three-week nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 which has caused major job losses and forced migrant workers to flee big cities and return to their hometowns.
So far, the country has reported 2322 positive cases of COVID-19 and 62 deaths. 162 people have also recovered from the disease. Though the surge in the number of cases seems alarming, the figures are much lesser as compared to other developed nations that have become the victims of the fast-spreading virus. Countries such as the US, Italy, Spain, France, Iran have witnessed death toll in thousands while India's death toll still stands at 53.
Earlier in the day, the MHA said it has written to all the States and Union Territories asking them to ensure smooth disbursal of money to the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PM-GKY) during the 21-day lockdown period.
According to an official statement, MHA Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has written to all States/UTs requesting them to take all necessary measures to ensure that the benefits of the scheme reach the beneficiaries without any hassle to the beneficiary, all this while following the social distancing protocols.