Assam’s Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has hit back at Delhi’s deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia for levelling corruption allegations in the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits during the Covid pandemic period. CM Sarma asked Manish Sisodia to stop sermonizing and told him to get ready for a criminal defamation case on the matter.
On June 1, 2022, the leftist media portal The Wire published a report alleging that a firm owned by Riniki Bhuyan Sarma was given an order to supply PPE kits and other Covid-19 essentials without following due procedure. The report claimed that when Himanta Biswa Sarma was the health minister in the previous Sarbananda Sonowal govt in Assam, a firm owned by his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma was granted an urgent work order to supply 5,000 PPE kits, despite having no history of supplying or producing medical equipment and safety gears.
Following this, Riniki Bhuyan Sarma refuted the allegations made in the report by The Wire and said she didn’t take even a penny for the supply of the PPE kits. She said that she had donated the PPE kits to the National Health Mission under CSR, and no payment was taken for the same.
On 4th June 2022, Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia held a press conference and accused Himanta Biswa Sarma of corruption. He alleged that Himanta Biswa Sarma gave contracts of government purchase to the companies owned by his wife and close associates. Sisodia quoted the report published by The Wire and repeated the claims made in the report.
Responding to these allegations, Himanta Biswa Sarma posted on his Twitter handle, “At a time when the entire country was facing the worst pandemic in over 100 years, Assam hardly had any PPE Kits My wife took the courage of coming forward and donating around 1500 free of cost to the govt to save lives She didn’t take a single penny.” He also attached a letter of appreciation written by the Director of National Health Mission, Assam to the office bearers of the company owned by Riniki Bhuyan Sarma for providing the necessary PPE kits free of cost. The letter is dated 27th March 2020.
Himanta Biswa Sarma further tweeted, “While you Mr. Manish Sisodia at that point of time showed a completely different side. You refused my multiple calls to help Assamese people stuck in Delhi. I can never forget one instance when I had to wait 7 days just to get an Assamese covid victim’s body from Delhi’s mortuary.”
Challenging Manish Sisodia to prove his claims in the court of law, Himanta Biswa Sarma wrote in a further tweet, “Stop sermonising and I will see you soon in Guwahati as you will face criminal defamation.”
Responding to Himanta Biswa Sarma, AAP leader Manish Sisodia tweeted a photograph of a ‘canceled purchase order’ dated 18th March 2020. In his tweet, Manish Sisodia wrote, “Hon’ble chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Ji, Here’s your wife’s contract to buy 5000 kits in the name of JCB Industries at 990/- per kit. Tell me, is this paper false? Is it not corruption to give a purchase order without any tender to your wife’s company when you were the Health Minister?”
Manisha Sisodia seems to have ignored that the purchase order he flagged in his tweet clearly mentions that it is a cancelled PO. According to a report by The Free Press Journal, Assam government’s spokesperson Piyush Hazarika said that there was no scam in the supply of PPE kits and no member of the chief minister’s family were involved in the supply of any material related to the COVID pandemic.
(This is a reprint from OpIndia)
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