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Modi govt wants defence firms to make medical equipment to fight coronavirus

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Representational image | An employee stacks protective face masks on the personal protective equipment (PPE) production line | Oliver Bunic/Bloomberg
Representational image | An employee stacks protective face masks on the personal protective equipment (PPE) production line | Oliver Bunic/Bloomberg


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New Delhi: India wants private defense firms to consider manufacturing medical equipment including personal protective gear and ventilators to curb the impact of coronavirus in the south Asian nation, a top policy maker said.

State-run companies like Bharat Electronics Ltd were manufacturing PPEs and ventilators and there was an opportunity for local private companies to tap the growing demand for equipment needed to combat Covid-19 cases, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said in an interview.

“Manufacturing medical equipment and supplies is a big opportunity for defense companies,” Kumar, who is the defence ministry’s top bureaucrat, said. “Cost-effective solutions tested and tried in India will have tremendous global demand.”

Hospitals from New York to Sydney have seen supplies of masks, ventilators and protective clothing for frontline health workers evaporate and India is no exception. To prevent a massive outbreak and protect its fragile health care capability, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the population of 1.3 billion people not to leave their homes for three weeks on March 24, initiating the world’s largest quarantine. The lockdown has now been extended to May 3.

India has so far reported over 12,000 infections and over 400 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Dues Clearance

To mitigate the impact on small vendors supplying equipment to defence firms, Kumar said his ministry had directed all state-run units to clear outstanding invoices to vendors immediately. A network of small and medium sized businesses are the main vendor for state-run Ordnance Factory Boards, companies that produce weaponry for the police and defense forces.

Spending on arms purchases is unlikely to be impacted in the financial year that started April 1, Kumar said despite a ceiling imposed to curb first quarter expenditure to 20% of the annual budget. The cap was introduced to meet the Covid-19 fallout.

While New Delhi is the world’s fourth-biggest military spender, its air force, navy and the army are still equipped with weapons that are largely obsolete.

India’s spending in the year starting April 1 will be $47.34 billion, of which $16.2 billion is for capital expenditure and of that, about 90% is devoted to existing obligations and committed liabilities. That leaves little to meet demands for weapons purchases and modernization.

“The first quarter expenditure is around 20% in most years. Therefore, by suitably planning our expenditure, we should be able to manage with the present ceilings,” Kumar said. – Bloomberg


Also read: India receives second batch of medical supplies for Covid-19 from China


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India

Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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