On June 5, Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma released more documents in connection to the ongoing controversy over allegations levels by Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. In a tweet, CM Sarma said, “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.”
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
CM Sarma had added a scanned image of the letter dated March 26, 2020, sent to National Health Mission (NHM) Assam by JCB Industries. In the letter, JCB Industries had requested NHM to accept 1485 PPE kits under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The letter read, “We have delivered a consignment containing a total number of 1485 PPE kits of make Amaryllis Healthcare Pvt Ltd.” The company further requested NHM to acknowledge the same.
Assam NHM duly acknowledged the same.— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) June 5, 2022
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 at others will not be accepted. You will face legal consequences. pic.twitter.com/JytEqciWjg
On March 26, 2020, NHM issued a letter to JCB Industries acknowledging the receipt of the consignment containing PPE Kits. The letter was undersigned by Dr Lakshmanan S, Mission Director NHM Assam. He said, “I appreciate your initiative to come forward and donate the above-said item as a part of corporate social responsibility.”
CM Sarma warned AAP’s Sisodia of legal action
On June 4, CM Sarma had warned Sisodia of legal action if he did not stop defaming CM Sarma and his wife. It all started when 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.
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.
Using Wire’s report, on June 4 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. He also posted copy of
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 to come forward and donating around 1500 free of cost to the govt to save lives. She didn’t take a single penny.”
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 purchase order dated March 18 2020 issued by NHM to JCB Industries for supply of 5000 PPE kits, ignoring the fact that the PO was marked as cancelled. The NHM had issued another letter to the company informing that the PO has been cancelled.
PPE kit crisis in 2020
The AAP leader had also alleged corruption because the PO was issued without tender, overlooking the unprecedented emergency situation the country was facing at that time. While generally govt procurements must follow the tendering route, it can be bypassed for emergency requirements because tendering is a time-intensive procedure. Outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic was such an emergency situation, and at that time the country had almost nil PPE kits. All states were scrambling to get the vital protective suites, and therefore they had issued urgent purchase orders for PPE suits to regular suppliers. Assam NHM had also supplied such orders to several companies, including JCB Industries for 5000 kits.
But JCB Industries could manage only 1485 PPE kits, given the high demand and low supply at that time – India didn’t made PPE kits at that time, all were imported – and wrote to NHM on 26 Marth requesting to accept the 1485 kits as donations under CSR, and not to make any payment. The NHM had acknowledged it on the next day on 27th March, thanking the company for donation. However, as an PO was already issued on 18th March, the NHM issued a letter on 6th April cancelling the PO, which was just an administrative procedure. It is notable that the PO was cancelled 10 days after the company requested to accept the kits as donation under CSR. It is not that the company donated the kits after the PO was cancelled, as some AAP supporters are alleging.
Delhi Govt purchased PPE Kits from private sellers at Rs.1087 per kit.— Pallab Lochan Das (@pallablochandas) June 4, 2022
Now, making false allegations against @rinikibsharma, who donated around 1500 kits free of cost to Assam govt.
Of course, @AAPDelhi & @msisodia just won’t stop making the same false claim over & over again. pic.twitter.com/4jUhMJDCGw
It is notable that BJP leaders and netizens have also pointed out how Delhi govt had purchased PPE kits at higher rate than the cancelled PO issued to JCB Industries cited. While the cancelled PO cited ₹990, the Arvind Kejriwal had approved purchase of the kits at ₹1087.47 per kit.
While Manish Sisodia is accusing Himanta Biswa Sarma of corruption for emergency purchase of PPE kits, his own CM had said at that time that the issue was not money, but availability of PPE kits. Responding to a offer by BJP MP Gautam Gambhir pledging ₹1 crore, the CM had said instead of the money, it will be better if the MP can manage PPE kits from somewhere. “The problem is not of money but availability of PPE kits. We wud be grateful if u cud help us get them from somewhere immediately, Del govt will buy them,” he had said.
Gautam ji, thank u for ur offer. The problem is not of money but availability of PPE kits. We wud be grateful if u cud help us get them from somewhere immediately, Del govt will buy them. Thank u. https://t.co/YtFP4MjYo3— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) April 6, 2020
So much desperate the situation was that the Delhi CM was asking opposition MP to arrange for PPE kits from somewhere. But but now the Delhi govt and AAP have forgotten all of them.