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    HomeBusinessManish Sisodia targets Assam CM for PPE kit deal; Sarma denies, threatens...

    Manish Sisodia targets Assam CM for PPE kit deal; Sarma denies, threatens criminal defamation case

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    Assam government spokesman Pijush Hazarika said the allegations against the Sarma family were ”false, imaginary and malicious”. He said there was no scam and asked why are the two media organisations were not going to the court if they have evidence.

    AAP leader Manish Sisodia on Saturday alleged that Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma gave contracts to companies of his wife and son’s business partners to supply PPE kits at “exorbitant rates” in 2020, a charge rebutted by the BJP leader who threatened to file a criminal defamation suit against him.

    At a press conference in the national capital, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia said two websites had collaborated on the story on the alleged “scam” and published it two days ago.

    Assam government spokesman Pijush Hazarika said the allegations against the Sarma family were ”false, imaginary and malicious”. He said there was no scam and asked why are the two media organisations were not going to the court if they have evidence.

    Sisodia claimed that while the Assam government procured PPE kits at Rs 600 apiece from other companies, Sarma, who was then the state health minister, gave urgent supply orders to his ”wife’s firm, JCB Industries, and Meditime Healthcare, which belonged to a close associate,” at Rs 990 apiece “taking advantage of the COVID-19 emergency”.

    ”It is a major scam by the chief minister of Assam and his close associates. It is a solid corruption case and the ED is after (Satyendar) Jain who is working hard to provide quality healthcare to the residents of Delhi,” Sisodia said. The ED had arrested Jain, Delhi’s health minister and AAP leader, on May 30 in a money laundering case after hours of questioning.

    Sarma refuted the allegations, saying his wife’s company gifted the PPE kits to the government and that Sisodia was “cherry-picking from half the documents”.

    The BJP leader said his wife managed to bring in a few kits to save precious lives at a time when Assam did not have a single PPE kit.

    “Although the NHM issued order, the company raised no bill and the kits were gifted to the government… not a single penny was transacted, where is the corruption(sic),” he tweeted.

    “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,” he added.

    The chief minister also attached a letter of appreciation from the then National Health Mission director Dr Lakshmanan for providing the PPE kits as corporate social responsibility during COVID-19 by JCB Industries, of which Sarma’s wife Rinki Sarma Bhuyan is a partner.

    ”Stop sermonising. I will see you in Guwahati as you (Sisodia) will face criminal defamation,” Sarma said.

    Sisodia alleged that business partners of “Sarma’s son also got a lucrative order to supply PPE kits at a rate of Rs 990 per piece. Agile Associates, a company owned by a business partner of Sarma’s wife, received orders to deliver 10,000 PPE kits for Rs 2,205 per piece”.

    “Despite an incomplete supply of orders, these close associates of the Sarma family bagged orders to supply more PPE kits at a rate of Rs 1,680 per piece,” Sisodia alleged.

    The firm belonging to his wife does not even deal in medical equipment, the AAP leader alleged.

    Sisodia asked why the members of the BJP were silent on “corruption” by a chief minister of a state ruled by the saffron party.

    He claimed 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”.

    “On the other hand, the central government has turned a blind eye towards corruption by BJP ministers. When will the BJP take action against its ministers?” he asked.

    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.

    Hazarika, also minister for water resources and information and public relations, said the allegations against the Sarma family “can be attributed as the handiwork of a certain section with vested interests”.

    At the beginning 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.

    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 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.

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