A notification by the Centre barring states from procuring ventilators, PPE kits and N-95 masks has stirred up a controversy, with critics terming it as “yet another attack on the federal structure of the country”.
The ruling BJP, however, defended the decision, saying that such procurement would address quality concerns and ease the logistics required to import them from other countries.
“State governments/UTs may not go for procurement of crucial medical equipment like PPEs, N95 masks and ventilators and that these should be procured centrally by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and distributed to the states,” says a letter by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The circular came at a time when the Karnataka government had planned to procure 1,000 ventilators in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, from a Mysuru-based company. The plan now remains suspended.
Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwath Narayan defended the Centre’s move, saying that quality concerns would be addressed if equipment was centrally procured.
“Since ventilators have to be imported, the Centre is ensuring that this is done without any logistic hassles,” he said.
Of the 1,000 ventilators the state was planning to procure, it had placed orders for 300. Karnataka has already procured around 60 ventilators from different companies and was expecting around 1,500 units from the Centre, he said.
Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah criticised the decision by the Centre, saying that it was “against the federal structure and decentralised system of governance. The Central government is trying to assume supreme power during this crisis,” he said in a tweet.
“States cannot wait till the Central government sends the supplies. Critical time will be lost as it affects timely interventions and the whole system gets jeopardised. The central and state governments should work in tandem,” he added.
Prathap Kanagal of the JD(S) took a dig at the Centre’s decision, saying that the federal structure of the country was reduced to a ‘big joke’.
“Neither does the Centre do it, nor does it allow anyone to do it. Why has the Centre suddenly issued such an order? Does it fear that it won’t get any commission if state governments procure the equipment?” he said.