PM sets up Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, asks people to donate generously
Geetanjali Minhas | March 29, 2020 | Mumbai
As COVID -19 cases continue to rise amid a 21-day lockdown, the centre and the states are proactively taking measures to provide aid to the underprivileged and the needy during this unprecedented situation.
By Sunday morning, India had registered 27 deaths from the Novel Coronavirus, even as the number of the affected touched 974.
The union government on Saturday asked the states and union territories to use the State Disaster Response Fund for the purpose. Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla in a written communication to all states and UTs requested immediately to set up relief camps for migrant workers, pilgrims and others who are returning to their domicile states or trying to do so during the lockdown period.
States have also been advised to set up relief camps along the highways, including setting up of tented accommodation to ensure that these people stay in relief camps till the lockdown orders are in place. The shelters are to be organized keeping all precautions including social distancing, adequate medical check-up drives to identify and separate cases requiring quarantine or hospitalization. Wide publicity has to be given to disseminate this information.
After the countrywide lockdown was announced on Tuesday night, lakhs of migrant workers were left stranded and finding it difficult to sustain. Images and videos of daily wagers walking back to their natives places started flooding the social media from across the country. With all transport shut and state borders sealed, they started walking back to their villages en masse with their families and belongings.
The Narendra Modi government launched a public charitable trust, named ‘the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund), to deal with emergency and distress situations like COVID -19. The PM will chair the trust and the defence minister, the home minister and the finance minister will be its members. The fund will enable micro donations as a result of which a large number of people will be able to contribute even small denominations. Donations to this fund will be exempted from income tax under section 80(G).
The fund will help in building capacities for quick emergency response and effective community resilience in tandem with infrastructure and institutional capacity reconstruction and enhancement. It will help bring in use of new technology and advanced research findings.
On Sunday, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the corporates can contribute to this fund as part of their CSR spend.
The Indian Railways announced that it had created a prototype of isolation units with medical facilities in Kamakhya in Assam with each coach having a capacity for 10 patients. As per the railway ministry, initially 10 coaches will be converted into isolation units by each zonal railway every week. The Railways has 17 zones and these isolation coaches will be used all across the country in railway premises. Modifications have been made to create the isolation cabin by removing the middle berth on one side and removing all the three berths in front of the patient berth. The bathroom and aisle areas have also been modified. Sanitization work is going on the coaches. As COVID -19 cases continue to rise, the Railways had asked all its rolling stock production units to explore the possibility of making medical equipment
Meanwhile, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal asked migrant workers not to leave and assured them that the government will take care of their food, accommodation and well-being. If required, Thackeray said, the workers should approach the tehsildar, district collector or local self-government agencies. He also appealed to people to donate to the Chief Ministers Relief Fund COVID-19.
Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope urged all private practitioners and doctors to keep their clinics open. Assuring cooperation from the police, he said besides COVID-19, other illnesses also need to be treated and clinics and nursing homes must remain open. Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar has written to the army for assistance in case of medical emergency. He has been warning people defying government guidelines on social distancing and crowding places.
In Gujarat, the state government started running buses till the border with Rajasthan to ferry migrant workers to homes, even as the authorities requested them to stay put. Voluntary agencies have also come forward to run community kitchens and provide food and shelter to the marginalized sections of society.
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