My wife is innocent: Assam CM on PPE kit scam
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday threatened Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia for accusing him of corruption over the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sisodia accused Sarma and his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma of alleged corruption through her company He had also questioned the BJP for remaining silent on the issue.
- At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Assam was in an acute shortage of PPE kits.
- Following this, the then-Assam Health Minister Sarma placed urgent orders with several firms for emergency COVID-19-related supplies.
- The Assam government had also procured 50,000 PPE kits from Guangzhou in China.
- The Wire reported that Bhuyan Sarma's firm had also received bulk orders from National Health Mission (NHM), Assam.
CM Sarma stated that the 1,500 PPE kits provided by the company in question were part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and no government funds were used. "Manish bhai, this is not corruption, it's humanity. My wife hasn't committed a crime, she tried to help Assam at the time of its biggest crisis. Throwing muck is unacceptable. You will face legal consequences," he tweeted.
The company in question wrote to Assam’s NHM stating that supply of around 1,500 PPE kits for Covid warriors must be treated as CSR contribution and hence not a single rupee must be paid by Govt. pic.twitter.com/HnFbs5ZbPy— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) June 5, 2022
On Wednesday, Bhuyan Sarma also denied allegations of a scam by her company—JCB Industries—in the supply of PPE kits during the pandemic. Taking to Twitter, she had called the accusations published on The Wire "unfounded." The report mentioned the Assam government had ordered COVID-19-related emergency supplies from four firms, three of which were linked to Bhuyan Sarma and the Sarma family's business associate.
As per The Wire report, Agile Associates, a firm belonging to Rajib Bora, Sarma's former business associate, delivered 10,000 PPE kits to the NHM in April 2020 at Rs. 2,200 per piece. Previously, the state health ministry, then led by Sarma, had issued urgent orders to his wife's firm JCB Industries and his family's business associate Ghanshyam Dhanuka's firm Meditime Healthcare for Rs. 990/kit.
The Wire report, which cites certain Right to Information (RTI) replies, also revealed both JCB Industries and Dhanuka's Meditime Healthcare didn't supply the complete "urgent" order given by the government on time. Still, they received more orders at a higher rate. However, Dhanuka's firms have been regular suppliers to the state health department even in the Congress era when Sarma was the health minister.