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Assam govt denies CM's family's involvement in PPE kits supply 'scam'

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Guwahati/Kolkata, June 4 (Ajit Weekly News) The Assam government on Saturday strongly denied the allegations of irregularity in supply of PPE kits and sanitisers and that Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s family was involved in the reported malpractice.

The opposition Congress, Trinamool Congress, Raijor Dal and Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and other political parties have been demanding a Supreme Court monitored probe or by the central agencies in the matter.

Assam’s Information and Public Relations Minister Pijush Hazarika, who is also the state government’s spokesman, said there was no irregularity in the supply of PPE kits and no member of Sarma’s family was involved.

Claiming that the allegations are “bogus, malicious and imaginary”, Hazarika, who was the minister of state of Health and Family welfare in 2020, said that the false campaign is a handiwork of a certain section with vested interests.

“If they have evidence they can go to the appropriate court instead of making false and unsubstantiated allegations,” the Minister said.

The political controversy erupted after a New Delhi based online media and a Guwahati based media outlet claimed that the Assam government in 2020 placed four Covid-19 related emergency medical supply orders, without following proper procedures. Hazarika said that considering the emergency situation, orders for supply of PPE kits were placed with 35 firms and for supply of sanitisers orders were placed to nine firms.

A supply order of only Rs 85 lakh was given to the firm referred to by the media portals, the Minister said.

Sarma, now Chief Minister, was the Health and Family Welfare Minister in the previous Assam government headed by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is now the Union Minister.

Chief Minister’s wife Riniki Bhuyan Sharma in a statement said that a news website has come out with an unfounded accusation with regard to my supply of PPE kits to the National Health Mission. “In the first week of the pandemic, not a single PPE kit was available in Assam. Taking cognisance of the same, I reached out to a business acquaintance, and delivered around 1,500 PPE kits to the NHM with a lot of effort. Later, I wrote to the NHM to treat the same as a part of my CSR. A due acknowledgment is enclosed. I did not take a single penny out of this supply. I have always been transparent about my belief in giving back to the society, irrespective of my husband’s political standing. My organisation has also supported the NHM in the fight against Covid by donating to the Aarogya Nidhi,” Bhuyan Sharma said.

In Kolkata, Trinamool Congress’ Rajya Sabha Member Sukhendu Sekhar Ray quoting the media reports, said that PPE kits were purchased at the rate of Rs 2,200 per piece. “However, the actual market prices of the same that time in the open market were Rs 600-700. The time referred to here is March-April of 2020 when these PPE kits were procured. A total of 10,000 PPE kits were procured from Agile Associates at the rate of Rs 2,200 per piece. Two companies named Agile Associates and Meditime Healthcare were involved and included the participation of the wife and son of the then Health Minister of Assam,” Ray said.

Demanding a Supreme Court monitored probe in the alleged scam, Meditime Healthcare bagged orders worth Rs 4.20 crore for the supply of PPE kits.

On the other hand, Agile Associates received orders worth Rs 2,20,50,000 for the same. These facts surfaced in the RTI replies and documents submitted on the purchases by the concerned department published in the media, said Ray, also a senior lawyer.

Congress leaders in Guwahati announced that they would continue the agitations till the probe was ordered to unearth the “irregularities”.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Saturday accused Assam Chief Minister of “awarding PPE kits’ contracts to his kin during Covid emergency”.

In reply, Assam Chief Minister Sarma in a statement said: “Manish Bhai, most surprising that you once claimed to be an ‘anti corruption’ activist. At that point of Covid wave, we in Assam did not have any single PPE kit. After hectic efforts, my wife managed to bring in a few kits to save precious lives. Although the NHM issued an order, the company raised no bill and the kits were gifted to the Govt.”

Saying that not a single penny was transacted, the Chief Minister asked Sisodia where is the corruption? “Due to acute shortage then, every government including yours waived the tender process for PPE kits and went for direct purchase. Don’t cherry-pick from half the documents. Have the courage to put all the facts. Don’t show half of a document trail, have courage to put all the facts?” Sarma stated.

–Ajit Weekly News

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