Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia on Saturday alleged that Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma gave contracts to companies owned by his wife and his son’s business partners to supply personal protective equipment kits above market rates during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, PTI reported.
At a press conference in Delhi, Sisodia referred to a report done by The Wire and The Cross Current about the alleged scam based on the Right To Information replies from the state’s National Health Mission.
The report alleged that the contract to supply medical utilities was approved without following a proper tender process.
Sarma, who was the health minister of Assam in 2020, gave urgent supply orders to his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma’s firm JCB Industries and an associate’s company Meditime Healthcare, Sisodia said on Saturday, reported PTI.
While the Assam government had procured PPE kits at Rs 600 per piece from other companies, JCB Industries and Meditime Healthcare had charged Rs 990 a piece, the Delhi deputy chief minister alleged.
“It is a major scam by the chief minister of Assam and his close associates,” Sisodia said. “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.”
On May 30, the Enforcement Directorate had arrested Jain, who is the Delhi health minister, in a money-laundering case. Delhi Chief Arvind Kejriwal has claimed that Sisodia will soon be the next minister to be arrested in a “fake case”.
At his Saturday’s press conference, Sisodia said that Bhuyan’s firm does not even deal in medical equipment and demanded an immediate investigation into the matter.
Sarma, however, refuted the allegations and claimed that his wife had gifted the PPE kits to the Assam government during the first wave of the pandemic.
“At a time when the entire country was facing the worst pandemic in over 100 years, Assam hardly had any PPE kits,” Sarma wrote on Twitter. “My wife took the courage of coming forward and donating around 1,500 free of cost to the government to save lives. She didn’t take a single penny.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader also threatened to file a defamation case against Sisodia.
“You [Manish Sisodia] refused my multiple calls to help Assamese people stuck in Delhi,” Sarma said. “I can never forget one instance when I had to wait seven days just to get a Assamese Covid victim’s body from Delhi’s mortuary. Stop sermonising and I will see you soon in Guwahati as you will face criminal defamation.”
Minutes after Sarma’s tweet, Sisodia posted a document of the tender purchase order sanctioned to JCB Industries.
“Tell me, is this paper false?” he asked. “Is it not corruption to give a tender purchase order to your wife’s company as a health minister?”
Earlier on Saturday, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and the Assam government spokesperson Pijush Hazarika defended Sarma, reported PTI.
“There was no scam in the supply of PPE kits,” Hazarika said. “Why are the two media organisations not going to the court if they have evidence instead of making false and baseless allegations?”
On Thursday, Opposition parties such as the Congress, the Raijor Dal and the Assam Jatiya Parishad also demanded an inquiry by the central agencies into the allegations.
Congress workers wore PPE kits and held protests in Guwahati, seeking a probe by either the Enforcement Directorate or the Central Bureau of Investigation.