Rahul alleges scam in supply of rapid kits, urges PM to take actionUpdated: Apr 28, 2020, 00:02 IST
New Delhi: Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday alleged a scam in the supply of rapid Covid-19 testing kits to the government, saying it was beyond belief that some people were indulging in profiteering from the immeasurable suffering of millions. He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take immediate action to bring “the corrupt to justice.
“That any human being would try and profiteer from the immeasurable suffering of millions of his brothers and sisters is beyond belief and comprehension. This scam is an insult to every Indian. I urge the PM [Prime Minister] to act swiftly to bring the corrupt to justice,” Gandhi tweeted.
“When the entire country is fighting against the Covid-19 disaster, some people are still profiteering. Shame and disgust at this corrupt mentality. One detests and feels ashamed of such a corrupt mindset. The country will never pardon them. We demand from the Prime Minister strict action against these profiteers,” he said in another tweet in Hindi.
The Congress separately cited media reports about the kits being sold at around 150% profits to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and asked the Prime Minister to fix the responsibility for it.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said it was “shameful and inhuman” that people were supplying test kits bought for Rs 225 each at Rs 600 each to the state exchequer.
“Corruption in Corona Testing Kits OR Profiteering by duping the Exchequer. Import Price of 1 Testing Kit= Rs 225! Purchase Price of Testing Kit= Rs 600! Profit Margin = 166.66 pc! Shameful and Inhuman! Will PM fix responsibility,” he tweeted.
Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Aman Sinha said the government has announced that strict action will be taken against those found profiteering under the Disaster Management Act. He called Gandhi’s comments self- contradictory. “On April 14, in a tweet he [Rahul Gandhi] had alleged that the government is delaying the purchase of the kits. Now when the kits were brought, he is making misleading statements.”
Congress leader Ahmed Patel too demanded a clarification from the government. “The recent Delhi HC [high court] judgement has raised a pertinent question - Why was ICMR purchasing antibody test kits for Rs 600 per piece, which was imported for Rs 245?” he asked on Twitter.
The high court last week fixed the price of the antibody test kits at Rs 400 each as against Rs 600 approved by the ICMR. The ruling came on a plea by two companies, which had entered into an agreement for distribution of the kits in India. The two companies approached the court after the importer sought full payment for the kits before delivering them, according to details submitted in the court.
In a fact sheet on the issue, the government said it had conducted a tender process to procure the kits and the evaluation committee received four bids of Rs 1,204, Rs 1,200, Rs 844 and Rs 600. Accordingly, bid offer of Rs 600 was considered as it was the lowest.
Later, addressing reporters through video-conferencing, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari demanded that the government should make public details of all purchases made in the last one month to fight Covid-19.
He said the government should put an immediate end to the huge profiteering in the procurement of equipment.
“What is happening? There seems to be an absolute anarchy in the procurement of equipment for fighting Covid-19. We would like to demand from the government to make public all details made with regard to procuring equipment for testing, PPEs [personal protection equipment], and ventilators. All those transactions must be transparently placed in the public domain,” added Tewari.
Referring to a company engaged in the supply of testing kits acquired from China, he alleged that kits purchased at Rs 245 each were being sold by the same company to ICMR at Rs 600 each while the same to Tamil Nadu government were sold at Rs 400 each.
“The price of one testing kit was Rs 245, thus 5 lakh kits amount to Rs 12.25 crore. However, the firm sold the kits to another company at Rs 21 crore and the ICMR procured these kits at Rs 30 crore, which is a profit margin of more than 100%,” Tewari said.
The Congress leader said the matter came to light in a petition before the Delhi high court by a company supplying such equipment.
“This is an extremely serious matter which hurts the fight of India against Covid-19. Our country’s resources are scarce and we have to optimise them and not allow companies to make arbitrage of over 60% in these transactions,” he said.