Assam CM's Wife Says PPE Supply By Firm Was 'CSR', Silent on Contract Details

Responding to an investigation by The Wire and Cross-Current, Riniki Bhuyan Sarma said, 'I did not take a single penny out of this supply. I have been transparent about my belief in giving back to the society."

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New Delhi: Hours after The Wire and The Cross Current published an exclusive report based on the Assam government’s RTI replies highlighting chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma’s firm bagging an ‘urgent’ supply order for PPE kits while he was the health minister, she has issued a public statement.

In the statement issued on Twitter on the evening on June 1, the chief minister’s wife selectively uploaded the National Health Mission’s letter issued to her firm, JCB Industries, on March 27, 2020, acknowledging the 1,485 PPE kits received from it as part of its “corporate social responsibility”.

The Wire’s story has already mentioned that fact.

However, the chief minister’s wife failed to say why nine days earlier, JCB Industries had secured an order to supply the material to the health department – then headed by her husband – in exchange for a stated price.

As per RTI replies of the health department, her firm, which is known to produce sanitary napkins and has no history of supplying/producing medical equipment and safety gear, bagged an ‘urgent’ supply order for 5,000 PPE kits at the rate of Rs 990 per kit on March 18, 2020. The supply order has been published in The Wire’s report and can be seen here too.

The order to JCB industries.

As per the office of the NHM’s director, JCB Industries, however, failed to comply fully with the supply order at that rate, and could deliver only 1,485 of them. A letter issued to the firm by the NHM director on April 4, 2020, noted that only 1,485 PPE kits were received as part of that order.

NHM cancelling the order

On March 27, 2020 – nine days after the urgent work order was issued to JCB Industries by NHM – and after partial supply of the PPE kits, NHM turned what was meant to have been a paid consignment into a ‘CSR activity’ by the firm.

Also read: Exclusive: Before Lockdown, Assam Govt Gave ‘Urgent’ PPE Orders to Firms Linked to CM. Here’s How They Turned Out

On May 15, The Wire and The Cross Current had jointly sent a query to the NHM director’s office asking what procedure was followed to turn the officially stated ‘failure’ of JCB Industries to fulfill the order in full into its ‘CSR activity’.

A query was also sent asking if the NHM had paid Rs 990 each for those 1,485 PPE kits received from JCB Industries.

Though the NHM has yet to respond to the queries, Riniki Bhuyan Sarma’s June 1 statement categorically says that she “did not take a single penny out of this supply.”