Karnataka kit scam charge by P.C. Siddaramaiah
Former chief minister P.C. Siddaramaiah on Thursday demanded a judicial probe into an alleged scam in the purchase of essential equipment for Covid-19 management in Karnataka.
Addressing a news conference at the party office |here, Siddaramaiah accused |the BJP government of embezzling Rs 2,000 crore while purchasing equipment such as ventilators and producing inflated invoices.
“The ministers pocketed Rs 2,000 crore by showing an expenditure of Rs 4,167 crore to purchase essential medical equipment,” Siddaramaiah, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, said.
He cited examples of how neighbouring states Kerala and Tamil Nadu paid less for ventilators even when demand was very high.
He said the Karnataka government purchased ventilators for Rs 5.60 lakh, Rs 12.32 lakh and Rs 18.20 lakh per unit, while the Centre procured 50,000 ventilators for Rs 4 lakh apiece, Kerala purchased 15 ventilators for Rs 2.86 lakh from a Bangalore firm and Tamil Nadu bought 100 transport ventilators for Rs 4.78 lakh per unit.
“Why did Karnataka buy ventilators at such exorbitant prices when the Centre and our neighbours paid much less? This raises a stink of corruption as they have over-invoiced to steal public money,” Siddaramaiah said.
He demanded an independent probe by a sitting judge of the high court.
He also accused the government of paying up to Rs 2,117 for each personal protective equipment (PPE) kit while the market price was Rs 330 per piece. “The government bought 3.5 lakh PPE from a company in Maharashtra. Of this, 1.25 lakh pieces were rejected due to poor quality. But the government paid Rs 2,117 for each of the remaining units,” Siddaramaiah alleged.
“They talk about ‘Make in India’ but the chief minister approved the purchase of three lakh PPE kits from China at a cost of Rs 94.2 crore, some of which were not fit to be operated,” he alleged.
“It’s the same with N95 masks for which they paid Rs 12,60,150 when it costs Rs 100 in the market,” he said.
He accused the government of procuring thermal scanners for Rs 5,945 each, when it was available in the market for Rs 15,00-2,000.
“They paid Rs 250 for 500ml of hand sanitisers and the social welfare department paid Rs 600 for 500ml when the wholesale rate was about Rs 100,” he said, accusing of a major scam.
Siddaramaiah said each department involved in Covid-19 management had spent more than they were entitled to.
State home minister Basavaraj Bommai, who is part of the core team managing Covid, told a hurriedly called news conference that the government had so far spend only Rs 506 crore for purchasing ventilators, PPE kits, masks and sanitisers.
“Our leader of the Opposition is spreading lies when we are struggling to manage the current situation,” Bommai said.
But none of the ministers who were present at the news conference said anything about a judicial probe demanded by Siddaramiah.
Deputy chief minister H.N. Ashwath Narayan accused Siddaramiah for “misleading” the people.
“The transport ventilator Tamil Nadu purchases is for fitting in ambulances. The ventilators we purchased are for ICUs in Covid-19 hospitals. He is misleading the people with such lies,” he said.
Narayan dismissed the allegations over over-invoicing any of the medical products purchased as part of the Covid-19 management.
“Ventilators were among the essential equipment that were in huge demand at the outbreak of Covid-19,” Narayan said.
“Depending on the model and their features we paid Rs 5.6 lakh to Rs 15 lakh for a unit,” he said dismissing Siddaramiah’s allegations and added, “every bit of his claim is false.”