AAP’s Manish Sisodia accuses Assam CM of corruption; Himanta denies the accusation and says he will file a defamation suit
A war of words has ensued between Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, after Sisodia accused the latter of “brazen corruption” under the “pretext of Covid-19 pandemic”.
At a press conference in Delhi on Saturday, the AAP chief alleged that the Assam government awarded contracts to companies owned by Sarma’s wife and his son’s business partners for the supply of PPE kits above prevailing market rates during the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. Sarma was the state’s health minister at the time.
Sisodia’s statements were based on a series of reports from Delhi-based news site The Wire, in conjunction with Guwahati-based portal The Cross Current published earlier this week, which alleged that companies linked to the wife of Sarma, Riniki Bhuyan Sarma and his “close” business associates have been awarded contracts for emergency medical supplies (including PPE kits and hand sanitizers) at a much higher price than the going rate , and without following a proper tendering process. The allegations were based on RTI responses from the state’s National Health Mission (NHM).
Following the accusations, Sarma hit back at Sisodia, saying he would file a libel suit against him. Defending his wife, Sarma said she “donated” the kits, and didn’t “take a penny”. “At a time when the whole country was facing the worst pandemic in over 100 years, Assam had virtually no PPE kits. My wife was brave enough to come forward and donate free d ‘about 1500 to government to save lives,’ Sarma tweeted.
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In the same thread, he alleged that Sisodia refused his pleas to help Assamese people stranded in Delhi during the pandemic. “You refused my multiple appeals to help the Assamese stranded in Delhi. I can never forget a case where I had to wait 7 days just to retrieve the body of an Assamese victim from Delhi morgue,” Sarma wrote. “Stop preaching and I will see you soon in Guwahati as you will face criminal libel,” he added.
The Wire report had said that when Sarma’s wife’s company could not supply the 5,000 PPE kits according to the quantity specified in the order, it was canceled by NHM, and later 1 485 PPE kits were presented as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR). ). The other company, of which Sarma’s son is a business partner, was also unable to “complete” the order for supplies. Citing the report, Sisodia said that although the other firm was unable to meet the supply, another supply order was given to it at an even higher rate of Rs 1,680.
In his remarks, Sisodia said that at the time the orders were placed, the government of Assam was already purchasing PPE kits at Rs 600 from another company. “But the companies owned by his wife and son’s business partners got the contract at Rs 990 apiece,” he alleged. “The BJP talks a lot about the corruption of opposition politicians, but I want to ask them whether they consider this corruption (the case of Sarma) or not,” Sisodia said, referring to the recent arrest of the leader of the BJP. ‘AAP Satyendar Jain by the Law Enforcement Branch in an alleged case of disproportionate wealth as ‘false’.
माननीय मुख्यमंत्री @himantabiswa जी! यह रहा आपकी पत्नी की jcb इंडस्ट्रीज के नाम 990 / – प्रति किट के हिसाब से 5000 किट ख़रीदने का contrat… बताइए क्या यह काग़ज़ झूँठरीदने है?
— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) June 4, 2022
Responding to Sarma’s tweet, Sisodia attached an alleged photo of the contract. “Do these documents lie? He asked.
To which, Sarma responded, accusing Sisodia of “pecking” and showing “half of the documentary track”.
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) June 4, 2022
“At this point in the Covid wave, we in Assam had no PPE kits. After strenuous efforts, my wife managed to bring in some past life saving kits. Although the NHM issued an order, the company issued no invoice and the kits were donated to the government. Not a single penny was exchanged, where is the corruption? Sarma asked.
He added: “Due to a severe shortage at the time, every government, including yours, waived the tender process for the PPE kit and opted for direct purchase. Do not select half of the documents. Have the courage to put all the facts.
Earlier on Saturday, Assam government spokesman and Minister Pijush Hazarika also refuted the allegations. Hazarika, who was the state’s junior health minister at the time, said “not a single paise” was spent by the government on PPE kits.
“In an emergency, it is not possible to follow general rules and regulations. The Cabinet has decided that a committee will be formed and if its members agree to purchase the necessary kits and equipment to deal with the situation, then it can be purchased,” Hazarika said as quoted by PTI news agency.
“As a result, orders for PPE kits were placed with 35 companies and ultimately only nine companies were able to supply them to the government. An order of only Rs 85 lakh was placed with the company targeted by the portals,” he said, adding that some PPE kits were organized under corporate social responsibility (CSR), but not a “ only paise” was sent by the government. “So how can a scam or scandal take place? Hazarika asked.