03 March, 2021

Firing The Blank Mask

‘Scam’ taints Naveen Patnaik’s stellar job in fighting the pandemic
Photograph by PTI
Firing The Blank Mask

The ‘blank cheque’ is proving really costly for the Naveen Patnaik government. Speaking at the daily government briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on April 28, Hemant Sharma, principal secretary of the industries department and head of the “emergency procurement committee for COVID-19”, said chief minister Patnaik had given a ‘blank cheque’ to buy and stock on  everything needed to fight the contagion. After two cases in the Orissa High Court, an FIR by RTI activists and removal of Sharma from the committee, the ‘blank cheque’ is haunting the government. Tell-tale signs of corruption in the purchase of PPE kits, masks and test kits keep tumbling out.

The crux of the allegations so far is this: the state government ordered 30 lakh triple-layered masks priced at Rs 16 apiece from a Tamil Nadu-based firm on April 17 in what was a clear violation of  the Centre’s guidelines, which pegged the maximum price at Rs 10 apiece. Curiously, the state placed orders for the same kind of masks to a Faridabad based company...

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