charges, says Karnataka govt, rejecting judicial probe Bengaluru, Sep 23 (PTI) The BJP government in Karnataka on Wednesday accused the Congress of demoralising COVID warriors and officials by making 'baseless' corruption charges in the procurement of medical equipment, when the state was in the middle of a 'war' against the pandemic.
Replying to the discussion on the government's alleged failure in handling the COVID situation and misappropriation in procurement of medical equipment, Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar rejected the judicial probe demanded by the Congress.
Unhappy with the government's reply, Congress MLAs, continuing with their demand for judicial probe, staged a walkout from the assembly.
The Congress has alleged misappropriation in the procurement of medical equipment for the treatment of COVID patients to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore.
It has said that the government has procured equipment at prices way higher than the market rates.
Rubbishing these charges with the help of data and documents, Sudhakar said, 'We are in the middle of a war, don't demoralise corona warriors, you have no right to do so.
There is fear among officials to independently take swift decisions and discharge duties because of such allegations, this will have impact.' During his over two-and-half hour reply in the assembly, he said when the government was still in the middle of the fight against the pandemic,the opposition by levelling such corruption allegations are making officials to go and present themselves before courts and commissions, which are looking into related matters.
'We are ready to face things, as we have nothing to hide, but let's win the war against COVID first.All the allegations are baseless, false and far from the truth.
There is no need for any judicial inquiry,' he added.
Hitting back at Sudhakar, Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah said the Minister's statement suggests that they have to cooperate with the government just because of the pandemic, even though it indulges in corruption.
He wanted to know how did the Centre purchase ventilators at Rs 4 lakh when the state procured at rates varying from Rs 5 to Rs 18 lakh.
'Do you mean to say, what centre procured was faulty or of low quality?' Making it clear that the intention of the opposition was not to demoralise the officers, Siddaramaiah said prima facie there is a clear case of corruption,and who had done it has to come out through an inquiry now.
'...there has to be a judicial inquiry by a sitting High Court judge into the corruption,' he said, as he along with Congress MLAs staged a walkout, terming the government's reply as 'irresponsible.' Responding to the charges that there was huge variation in price of ventilators procured, Sudhakar said different specifications and different quality ventilators are available for different prices, and one should not get confused with the different prices.
Answering a question on comparative prices at which neighbouring Tamil Nadu has procured ventilators, he said ventilators procured by that state which Siddaramaiah is citing, are transport ventilators, being used in ambulances.
'It is not correct to compare our ventilators with that of Tamil Nadu.' He also compared the price variation of PPE kits and N95 masks in March or April and in July.
PPE kits cost Rs 1,444 in April, and in July it cost Rs 575, while N95 masks used to cost Rs 147 in March and in July it was Rs 44, the minister pointed out.
The Minister also clarified that the procurement of equipment was done by the Karnataka State Drugs Logistics and Warehousing Society under the supervision of several committees including price fixation committee, technical committee among others.
He said 15 departments of the state government have spent Rs 4,200 crore on combating the infection.Out of this Rs 1,142 crore has been spent by the health department, and Rs 76 crore by the Medical Education department.
Listing various measures taken by the government to control COVID spread and management like increasing the number of beds with oxygen supply and enhancing oxygen production and storage capacity, Sudhakar said the government was doing all that is humanly possible to fight the virus, and without civic sense this pandemic cannot be combated.
Noting that the government's aim is to bring down the fatality rate, he said the global fatality rate is 3.6 per cent and in few countries it is even 10 per cent.
'In our country the case fatality rate is 1.6 per cent, while it is 1.54 and 1.36 per cent in Karnataka and Bengaluru respectively,' the minister added.PTI KSU BN WELCOME BN WELCOME