Foreign Covid aid reached India on April 25. Centre took 7 days to notify SOP as oxygen crisis deepened
As India battled a severe shortage of oxygen and other medical supplies, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare took a week to frame SOP despite foreign relief first arriving in India on April 25 from Singapore.
A plane carrying the batch of medical aid for India to help the country tackle the outbreak of the coronavirus disease at Zhukovsky Airport in Moscow, April 28, 2021. (Photo:Reuters)
Around 40 nations across the world announced that they would send medical supplies and assistance to help India deal with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated many parts of the country.
The first consignments of medical supplies from foreign nations arrived in India on April 25 from Singapore. Since then, tonnes of foreign aid in the form of oxygen generators, concentrators and ventilators were received by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials in the past one week.
It, however, has come to light that while the first consignment of Covid-19 assistance arrived in India on April 25, the Centre took seven days to frame the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of distributing these life-saving medical supplies among states even as hospitals begged for oxygen and people succumbed to the deadly disease.
Sources in the government have told India Today TV that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the nodal ministry, notified the procedure to distribute these supplies to states on May 2 and appointed HLL Lifecare (HLL) as the distribution manager.
The Union ministry’s delayed response came despite the country opening its gates to receive crucial foreign aid as early as April 26 when PM Narendra Modi spoke with US President Joe Biden.
What is the SOP?
As per the notification issued by the Union ministry, the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) has been appointed as the official consignee while HLL was entrusted with the distribution of supplies received from foreign countries.
As per the SOP, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will be the nodal agency for channelling all offers of help from foreign countries.
The IRSC has been designated as the consignee for all consignments received via MEA and coming as donations from foreign countries.
The Red Cross Society will issue necessary certificates to HLL for processing customs and regulatory clearances at airports. HLL has been appointed as the customs agent for Red Cross and the distribution manager for MoHFW. It has been entrusted with the speedy processing of consignments and transport for distribution to the states.
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