Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, former finance minister Thomas Isaac and former health minister K K Shailaja were aware of the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits at exorbitant prices during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, an RTI reply shows.
The Opposition Congress had alleged corruption in buying the PPE kits and gloves at exorbitant rates during the pandemic. Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan alleged, “PPE kits were available in Kerala market for Rs 500 while the government bought it for Rs 1,500. Gloves were available in the market for Rs 7 but KMSCL purchased 1 crore gloves for Rs 12.”
Satheesan said the party has alleged that the CM was aware of the irregularities in the sale of PPE kits at high rates, and with the RTI reply, it is clear that the purchase happened with the permission of the CM.
RTI activist and Congress leader Advocate CR Pranakumar alleged that the kits were bought for Rs 446 on March 29, 2020, whereas they were purchased for more than double the price at Rs 1,550 on March 30. Pranakumar showed that the RTI reply, which stated that the offices of chief minister, then finance minister and former health minister had signed for the sanction of the purchases.
According to the RTI reply, the reason given for the purchases is that considering the Covid-19 situation, the government had to increase the stock but could not do it with the available vendors.
The RTI said, “The forecasted volume to meet the worst case scenario of Covid-19 cannot be managed through the current vendors hence new vendors were searched out nationally, including central PSU HLL (Hindustan Latex Limited). Due to the global scarcity of raw materials, heavy disruption to supply chain and high demand nationally and globally reflected in the price hike of the products.”
The same RTI reply also showed that the PPE kits were bought for Rs 1,500 on March 25, 2020 from HLL.
The Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government had earlier said the Covid-19 situation was grave and it was necessary to buy PPE kits from any available source.
But opposition says that this reason is not true as products were available in Kerala market.
Satheeshan said, “It was available in the Kerala market. Both gloves, PPE were available in Kerala market. For example, though they bought the gloves from outside for Rs 12, the company was not able to commit the entire quotation then Kerala government purchased it for rs 7 from Kerala market.”