Bengal Governor Asks Mamata Banerjee For "Pandemic Purchase Scam" Probe Report

The governor's comment met with a swift retort from Trinamool minister Firhad Hakim, who said "this is not the place to raise such issues"

Bengal Governor Asks Mamata Banerjee For 'Pandemic Purchase Scam' Probe Report

Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have sparred in the past (File)

Kolkata:

Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar today asked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for a report on a probe she'd ordered in August into allegations of corruption to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore in connection with the purchase of equipment related to the Covid pandemic.

"I am keen to know what happened to that probe. What is the report? What was the basis on which an investigation into purchase of pandemic equipment was ordered? Who investigated it? Who was investigated? Who were the beneficiaries of the single tender or was it a free-for-all," Mr Dhankhar asked.

"If people can create an opportunity to make money during a pandemic, we are shaming our civilization and our system. The report should be made public," he said.

The governor was speaking at an event held this morning at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), which is run by the ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research, which is the centre's nodal body in this health crisis).

The ICMR-NICED is part of the network of a dozen medical facilities and research institutions across the country that launched Phase 3 trials for the Covaxin coronavirus vaccine, which has been described as the first indigenously-developed vaccine candidate against the virus.

The governor's comment met with a swift retort from Trinamool minister Firhad Hakim, who went to the ICMR-NICED later in the day to volunteer for the trial and was administered a dose.

"This is not the place to raise such issues. If the governor did so, he did wrong," he said.

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Nevertheless, the BJP has backed Mr Dhankhar.

At a press meet this evening BJP Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh claimed: "Crores were spent on buying masks and sanitisers from companies belong to Trinamool cronies. The truth must come out."

"The honourable Chief Minister constituted a committee for purchase of pandemic-related equipment. That was done in August... reports emanated that Rs 2,000 crore pandemic purchases suffered from serious flaws, patronage (and) corruption., and therefore the Chief Minister thought it wise to constitute a committee," governor Dhankhar said.

He added: "Your governor pointed out that those engaged in heading those indiscretions, how can they be investigators. I wrote to the government. Those who are to be investigated cannot be investigators themselves."

Mr Dhankhar also criticised the Bengal government for refusing to implement Ayushman Bharat - the central government's flagship medical insurance scheme (something the BJP has repeatedly flagged ahead of Assembly elections due next year) in the state.