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PPE kit scam: Assam TMC prez writes to PM accusing Sarma of violating code of conduct

As many as 200 leaders and workers of Assam TMC, on Wednesday, took out a rally 'March to Raj Bhawan' from Uzan Bazar demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the PPE Kits procurement scam.


Assam Trinamool Congress president and former Rajya Sabha member Ripun Bora has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi apprising him of alleged violating of the code of conduct by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

In a memorandum submitted to Modi on June 8, Bora wrote, “Sarma has violated the code of conduct for both state and Union ministers by issuing orders for supply of PPE Kits and hand sanitisers to a firm owned by his family members during Covid-19 pandemic situation.”

There had been protests against the allotment of supply orders for PPE kits and other Covid-related safety equipment by the then health minister and present chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to JCB Industries, a firm owned by his wife Riniki Sarma Bhuyan and “business friend” Ashok Dhanuka’s son Ghanshyam Dhanuka. It was alleged that these firms were given the order for PPE kits at the rate of Rs 990 while others supplied the same item at Rs 600 apiece.

“As per the government of India’s Code of Conduct for ministers (both Union and State), all state and Union ministers are to ‘ensure that the members of his family do not start, or participate in, business concerns, engaged in supplying goods or services to that government (excepting in the usual course of trade or business and at standard and market rates) or dependent primarily on grant of licenses, permits, quotas, leases, etc., from that government; and report the matter to the Prime Minister or the chief minister as the case may be, if any member of his family, sets up, or joins the conduct and management of any other business’,” Bora quoted the MCC for ministers.

The Code of Conduct for all ministers – in the Union and all State governments – was approved by the Union Cabinet at its meeting on January 24, 1992, in the Narasimha Rao era, he said.

“In the tweet, Sarma proudly claimed that the Assam government may be the first state government to have ordered and received 50,000 PPE kits directly from China and that the kits would help save valuable lives. But later, he said that the PPE kits were ‘defective’ and could not be used,” Bora wrote.

He further said that two years on, an RTI reply from National Health Mission (NHM), revealed that no PPE kits had been ordered or received from China.

“The question that now arises is – what happened to the 50,000 PPE kits that Sarma had proudly claimed to have sourced at his initiative? Some have conjectured that the kits may have been used after all. If that is the case, the lives of health workers, who battled 24×7 to save Covid patients, were put at risk. Others say the kits were diverted and re-supplied by the companies owned by those close to Sarma, who were awarded the emergency supply orders for PPE kits at prices way above the actual price. This would mean that huge amounts of money changed hands,” Bora said while quoting a report of a news portal.

The ATC leaders further demanded a thorough investigation by the CBI into the matter to “clear the air of doubts that have become all pervasive and redeem your status as a good and just leader who is not afraid of the truth”.

As many as 200 leaders and workers of Assam TMC, on Wednesday, took out a rally ‘March to Raj Bhawan’ from Uzan Bazar demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the PPE kit procurement scam by the state health department in which chief minister (then health minister) Sarma, and his family members were involved.

However, the police did not allow the protestors to move to Raj Bhawan, though later, a five-member team led by Ripun Bora, went to Raj Bhawan and sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in support of their demand.

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