Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday said the Rs 64 crore in the CM Relief Fund being questioned by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was a miniscule of the over Rs 300 crores already spent by his government on providing Covid care and related expenses, and the fund had been set aside by his government for emergency purposes, to be used as and when needed.Ridiculing the SAD for criticising the state government for spending only Rs 2.28 crore from the amount accumulated in the CM Relief Fund for Covid support, Captain Amarinder said the source of financing Covid related expenditures was totally irrelevant. The important thing was that despite total absence of financial support forthcoming from the central government, of which SAD is a part, his government had not allowed the fiscal crunch to come in the way of Covid management, he said.
If the Akalis were at all concerned about Covid care in the state, they should ask the Centre why they had failed to support the Punjab Government in this critical time, said the Chief Minister. The money being contributed by concerned citizens to the CM Relief Fund was an emergency fund that the state government had set aside to meet exigent urgent needs as and when required, when there is no immediate alternate resource available to it, he added.Captain Amarinder pointed out that given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, which could continue for many months and perhaps even a year or more, it was important to keep such emergency funds in readiness to meet any eventuality. However, the Akalis clearly did not believe in such emergency preparedness, as was evident from the many instances of mishandling of crisis situations during their 10-year-rule, he quipped.
The Rs. 64,86,10,456 balance lying in the Relief Fund was a drop in the ocean compared to the crores of rupees already spent by his government on infrastructural upgradation, setting up of Covid Care Centres, roping in additional medical and para-medical staff, purchase of PPE kits and other essential equipment for battling the Coronavirus, Captain Amarinder pointed out. As of date, the Health Department alone had spent nearly Rs 150 crore on Covid care essentials like VTM kits, PPE & N95, triple layer masks, drugs, consumable, oxygen cylinders, ambulances, among other things, he said.In addition, the state government had spent Rs 29.5 crore on enabling 5.20 lakh migrant workers to go back to their home states via 398 Shramik Special Trains, said the Chief Minister, reacting to SAD criticism that the CM Relief Fund had not been used for supporting the migrants. Besides, crores had been spent on food and essential supplies to the poor and marginalized people across the state, he added.Captain Amarinder further said that nowhere in his statement had the SAD identified any specific case of a hospital where doctors were not getting safety equipment, or where ventilators and other facilities were lacking. “If any such instance is in the knowledge of the Akalis, they should bring it to our notice so that we can address the problem. How and from where we draw the funds for that would be our problem and not something they need worry about,” he added.Instead of wasting their time on non-issues and misleading the people with their unwarranted and baseless accusations and allegations in this critical time, the Akalis should partner the state government in fighting the Covid pandemic, said the Chief Minister.