Probe sought into Assam ‘COVID corruption’


Opposition parties say firms owned by or linked to CM’s family got orders for COVID-related items

Opposition parties say firms owned by or linked to CM’s family got orders for COVID-related items

GUWAHATI

Opposition parties in Assam have demanded a probe by the CBI into cases of ‘COVID corruption’ involving the family of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Activist-turned-MLA Akhil Gogoi’s party, the Raijor Dal, said a firm owned by a member of the Chief Minister’s family was awarded an “urgent” order for the supply of 5,000 PPE kits in March 2020. Two other firms linked to his family were also awarded such orders to fight the novel coronavirus, the party said.

Mr. Sarma was then the State’s Health Minister.

Raijor Dal president Bhasco de Saikia cited a media report, based on documents procured through RTI, and said the firm, which allegedly had no history of supplying medical equipment and safety kits apart from producing sanitary pads, got the contract at ₹990 per PPE kit while the rate for another firm was ₹600.

“The companies involved must be blacklisted and a CBI probe ordered into the allegations of COVID-related corruption,” Mr. Saikia told journalists on Thursday.

Asom Jatiya Parishad chief Lurinjyoti Gogoi said the corruption charges, pointing to the involvement of the Chief Minister and his family, needed to be probed by an independent agency. He cited the case of the National Health Mission (NHM) buying sanitiser worth ₹94 for ₹231 from a trader “close to the Chief Minister and his family”.

Assam Congress president Bhupen Kumar Borah said Mr. Sarma and his family had got into the business of PPE kits and other COVID-related items to profit from people’s suffering during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When everything, including business, had come to a grinding halt and lives of the common people torn apart, the former Health Minister (Mr Sarma) quietly entered into the business of PPE kits and other COVID-related items,” he said.

Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, the Chief Minister’s wife, trashed the charges. She said she had reached out to a business acquaintance and delivered about 1,500 PPE kits to the NHM when not a single such kit was available in Assam

“Later on, I wrote to the NHM to treat the same as a part of my CSR. 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,” she wrote on Twitter.

She attached a letter of appreciation from Lakshmanan S., the then NHM mission director for donating the PPE kits. EOM



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