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    Assam govt denies involvement of CM


    Government spokesman Pijush Hazarika said there was no scam in the supply of PPE kits and no member of the chief minister’s family were involved in the supply of any material related to pandemic

    Assam | Himanta Biswa Sarma

    The Assam government on Saturday refuted allegations by a section of the media that Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s family was involved in alleged malpractices in the supply of PPE kits during the pandemic.

    Government spokesman Pijush Hazarika said there was no scam in the supply of PPE kits and no member of the chief minister’s family were involved in the supply of any material related to the COVID pandemic.

    The allegations are ”false, imaginary, malicious and can be attributed as the handiwork of a certain section with vested interests,” Hazarika, who is also the state’s minister for water resources and information and public relations told reporters here.

    ”Why are the two organisations (who made the claims) not going to the Court if they have evidence instead of making false and baseless allegations ?” he added.

    At a press conference, AAP leader Manish Sisodia alleged on Saturday citing media reports that while the Assam government procured PPE kits for Rs 600 a piece from other companies, Sarma gave urgent supply orders to the firms of his wife and son’s business partners for Rs 990 a piece “taking advantage of the COVID-19 emergency”.

    The firm belonging to Sarma’s wife does not even deal in medical equipment, he alleged.

    “While the contract given to the firm of Sarma’s wife was cancelled as the company could not supply PPE kits, another supply order was given to the firm belonging to the business partners of his son at a rate of Rs 1,680 per kit,” Sisodia said citing the media report.

    He said two websites had collaborated on the story and published it two days ago.

    The AAP leader asked why the members of the BJP were silent on corruption by a chief minister of a state ruled by the saffron party.

    “They talk of corruption and level baseless allegations against members of opposition parties. I want to probe their understanding of corruption… want to ask them if they consider this (Assam case) corruption or not,” Sisodia added.

    He said the Enforcement Directorate arrested Satyendar Jain on “bogus” charges of corruption and the Centre told the court on Friday that he is “not an accused”.

    The ED had arrested Jain on May 30 in a money laundering case after hours of questioning. The agency has alleged that the AAP leader and his wife had amassed disproportionate wealth worth Rs 1.47 crore between February 2015 and May 2017, more than double their known sources of income.

    On June 1 two digital media organisations – New Delhi-based ‘The Wire’ and Guwahati-based ‘The Crosscurrent’ in a joint investigative report claimed that the Assam government had placed four COVID-19 related emergency medical supply orders most likely without following proper process.

    During the outbreak of the pandemic two years ago, none knew how to deal with the situation and experts said that PPE could provide full protection to deal with COVID infection. But there was no firm in Assam which manufactured the kits, while many other states had stopped transporting them as they themselves needed those, Hazarika said.

    ”During an emergency situation, it is not possible to follow the general rules and regulations. The Cabinet had taken a decision that a committee will be formed and if its members gave the nod to buy the necessary kits and equipment to deal with the situation, then it can be bought,” Hazarika, who was then the minister of state for health, said.

    Accordingly, orders for PPE kits were placed with 35 firms and finally only nine firms could supply them to the government. An order of only Rs 85 lakh was placed with the firm referred to by the portals, he said.

    Addressing an Important Press Conference | LIVE

    — Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) June 4, 2022

    Some PPE kits were arranged under corporate social responsibility (CSR) but not a single paise went from the government. ”So how can a scam or a scandal take place ?” Hazarika asked.

    The opposition Congress, Raijor Dal and Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) had separately demanded a high-level probe by CBI, ED or any other central agencies into the alleged irregularities in supply of PPE kits in 2020 by firms linked to Sarma’s wife when he was the health minister in the previous BJP government in the state.

    The chief minister’s wife Riniki Sarma Bhuyan, tweeted that 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 1500 PPE kits to the NHM (National Health Mission) with a lot of effort. Later on, I wrote to the NHM to treat the same as a part of my CSR,” she said.

    Bhuyan claimed that she did not take a “single penny” for supplying the PPE kits and asserted that she had always been “transparent” about her “giving back to the society” irrespective of her husband’s political standing.

    (Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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