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Delhi LG suspends AAP minister Saurabh Bharadwaj’s OSD RN Das over medical kit procurement scam during COVID-19 pandemic

Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj’s OSD RN Das is under probe for alleged irregularities in the procurement of various medical items like Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, gloves, masks and Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits worth around Rs 60 crore

On Wednesday (29th May), Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena suspended Dr. RN Das, the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj with immediate effect, according to an official order. Das has been suspended in connection with alleged irregularities in the procurement of medical kits. 

In the order issued on Wednesday, the directorate said, “The Hon’ble Lt. Governor, Delhi, in the exercise of the powers conferred by sub-rule (1) of Rule-10 of the CCS (CCA) Rules, 1965, hereby, places the said Dr. R.N. Das, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Hon’ble Minister (Health), GNCTD, under suspension with immediate effect.” 

As per the order, during the period of suspension, Das shall remain in Delhi headquarters and can not leave the headquarters without obtaining the previous permission of the Competent Authority.

According to news agency ANI, Das’ suspension pertains to his alleged involvement in the irregular and illegal registration of private nursing homes.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has also alleged his role in the registration process of a children’s hospital in Vivek Vihar where six newborns died in a fire incident on Saturday night (25th May).

Earlier in April this year, the Directorate of Vigilance issued a show cause notice to Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj’s OSD RN Das in connection with the alleged irregularities in the procurement of various items. These included Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, gloves, masks and Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits worth around Rs 60 crore during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. 

According to the notice, the Directorate of Vigilance observed that “certain medical items were purchased to favour few individuals and companies/ firms and, thereby, caused wrongful gain to the companies and loss to the government…” 

Das, the OSD to current Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj, held the same position under former Health Minister Satyendar Jain, who resigned in 2023, the DoV notice issued in April had read.

Delhi’s AAP government and sources close to OSD Das had denied the allegations claiming that Das was neither the OSD to Saurabh Bharadwaj nor Satyendar Jain during the said period. Sources close to Das said that he had become OSD to the health minister on 14th March 2023. They claim that Das was only the chairperson and member of the technical committee in 2021 during the COVID pandemic, the time period when the allegations date back. According to them, there are three to four members in the technical committee.

However, DoV notice had read, “Das… was in the forefront in managing tenders in favour of a particular family in different company names, and the conspiracy was hatched in the backdrop of the Covid crisis…” 

It further said that the Covid pandemic was used as a “reason and basis to swindle crores of rupees from the public exchequer”. It added, “…Health department officials have used the context of the Covid pandemic for enriching these private companies, and intentionally allowed cartelisation among them…”  

The DoV further mentioned in the notice that Das chaired three committees for the procurement of single-use gloves, sterilised gloves, and N-95 masks and that the technical evaluation committee — chaired by Das — “extended undue favours by qualifying a firm in the absence of such certificates for net worth, experience, and proving that it was a glove manufacturer”, Indian Express had reported in April this year. 

The notice also cited the procurement of RAT kits and said that the rate of kits was quoted at Rs 459.20 per unit, which was Rs 9.20 higher than the initial unit price. 

The notice stated, “It is observed that the rate of RAT kits progressively declined every month, so much so that within a span of six months, RAT kits were available at a rate of Rs 31.50 per unit.” 

The DoV had asked him to submit his reply with an explanation within seven days. 

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