While the rising number of coronavirus cases in Karnataka has mounted pressure on the BS Yediyurappa-led government, allegations of misappropriation of funds has added to his woes.
The opposition Congress in the state has claimed that the BJP-led government allegedly misappropriated funds to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore while procuring equipment to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the government has described the allegations as “baseless”, saying Rs 500 crore has been spent so far.
Leader of Opposition for the Congress Siddaramaiah on Thursday alleged that the government purchased medical equipment at higher prices and pocketed more than Rs 2,000 crore from the state exchequer.
The Congress alleged that the government has spent Rs 4,100 crore on coronavirus equipment purchased by several departments and ministries. The party also furnished documents to show purchase of ventilators by states like Tamil Nadu, costing far less than the price paid by Karnataka.
“Today I have furnished certain documents where it shows there is misappropriation in ventilators, PPE kits, oxygen cylinders. They say they have spent Rs 324 crore but they have spent Rs 4,000 crore of which half is misappropriated and has gone to the pockets of ministers,” said Siddaramaiah. “I have demanded a sitting high court judge for a judicial inquiry.”
According to the breakup provided by the opposition party, the state Health Department spent Rs 700 crore, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the local bodies Rs 200 crore, Medical Education Department Rs 815 crore, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) Rs 742 crore, Labour Department Rs 1,000 crore and the social welfare department Rs 500 crore. Rs 160 crore has been spent in purchases for Covid care centres and Rs 50 crore in buying central government equipment purchase, leading to a total of Rs 4,167 crore.
According to the Congress allegations, Tamil Nadu had bought ventilators at Rs 4.78 lakh apiece while the state government spent a minimum of Rs 5.6 lakh and a maximum of Rs 18.2 lakh.
Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar alleged that BJP leaders want to make money even during a pandemic.
Hitting back at the Congress, the BJP-led government questioned the ventilator purchases made in 2019 when the party was in power with the JDS.
Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Ashwathnarayan said, “There is a difference from product to product; we can get ventilators from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 60 lakh but there will be lots of difference between model and features. They (Congress) should look back at the ventilator procured during their regime.”
He added that the government has clarified that it has spent only Rs 2,117 crore, including the various incentives given to farmers, drivers or migrants, and Rs 500 crore in procurement of equipment.
The government also said it is ready for any scrutiny and will place every document before the House in order to put an end to the allegations of corruption.