Government allows states to directly import Covid-19 aid

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The Centre has enabled states to directly procure Covid relief material from abroad by purchase or through donations for free distribution, according to internal guidelines issued for assisting states and UTs with Covid relief, reviewed by HT.

According to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), states can directly put in requests to missions, which will assist in providing appropriate information on suppliers and vendors in foreign countries for the purpose of placing orders for procurement directly.

“The Centre has been assisting the States/UTs with Covid relief materials coming from abroad either in the form of donations or gifts on need basis…States/UTs can procure Covid relief materials from abroad by way of purchase or donations/ gifts for free distribution. Blanket exemptions including, customs, IGST. No Object Certificates, etc. can be availed by State Government, or the entity, relief agency or statutory body, as specified in such certificate. States/ UTs shall designate a nodal officer for the purpose of coordinating such proposals,” the guidelines said.

The Centre has already granted blanket exemption from customs and Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) for all items sent as donations from abroad as Covid relief material, according to an internal Standard Operating Procedure note on “receiving donations/gifts from abroad”, HT reported on May 6.

As questions continued to swirl last week regarding allocation of oxygen-related equipment and supplies provided by other countries to back India’s Covid-19 response, the government said it had framed a standard operating procedure (SOP) for distribution of aid to states with a high number of active cases.

According to the new guidelines issued internally, states will need to designate a nodal officer for the purpose of coordinating such proposals. Most states have submitted a list of nodal officers to the Centre; HT has seen the list. The SOP has been sent to the coordinating officers from the external affairs ministry, the Niti Aayog, ministry of civil aviation and the ministry of health.

“On receipt of requests for procurement by States/UTs, missions shall assist in providing appropriate information on suppliers/vendors in foreign countries for the purpose of placing orders for procurement directly. Missions will keep MEA and MoHFW informed of such proposals. In all such proposals, consignee will be States/ UTs for the purpose of receiving customs clearance and distribution, etc.,” it said.

“Missions will keep informed MEA and MoHFW of any proposal of any direct purchase by States/UTs as well as donations gifts to States/UTs from foreign governments, private individuals, Indian associations, companies and NGOs.Offers of donations/gifts by foreign governments to States/UTs should be with no preconditions for availing blanket exemptions. Such proposals will be cleared by Gol on a case-to-case basis,” it added.

For donations or gifts from private individuals or Indian associations, companies and NGOs, the government has appointed Niti Aayog as the nodal agency for handling such proposals or alternatively, states or UTs can designate an agency for the purpose.

“Proposals of foreign companies that wish to donate to their employees in states/UTs would need to seek relaxation of CSR guidelines. These proposals will be handled by Niti Aayog in consultation with the ministry of corporate affairs. Niti Aayog will keep MEA, MOHFW and MHA informed of all proposals received directly by it. All consignments of donations/gifts from foreign governments or private entities seeking blanket exemptions for use by States must meet a minimum threshold as indicated,” it added.

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