Breaking his silence and categorically rejecting the Opposition’s allegations on supply of vaccines to some private hospitals and procurement of Fateh Kits as “politically motivated”, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said that there was no question of the State Government making profits amid the pandemic, which it was battling hard to save lives. Lashing out at the Akalis and AAP for spreading misinformation to further their political ambitions and weakening the State’s war against COVID-19 by raising non-issues, the Chief Minister charged the two parties with making “motivated” hue and cry to push their electoral agendas with an eye on the 2022 Assembly elections.
Asserting that the State Government had not indulged in any wrongdoing, the Chief Minister said that quick and unusual decisions have to be taken in an emergency war-like situation. All protocols were strictly followed and emergency rules were invoked to meet the crisis, he added.
“All decisions were taken in the interest of the people of the state, and all due procedures were followed,” he said, terming media reports on alleged scams as nothing but sensationalism.
Capt Amarinder said that he was with his officials 100 percent on these issues, adding that all the right steps were taken and “no amount of Opposition hullaballoo can undermine the true intent of the Government, which is focused on protecting the lives of the people”. “The state’s doctors and bureaucrats have been doing an excellent job in fighting the war with their backs against the wall,” he said, declaring that the Punjab would beat the virus.
Also taking serious note of the large-scale gatherings being organized by the SAD against the State Government in brazen violation of the COVID safety protocols and the curbs in place, the Chief Minister said: “In their desperation for power, Sukhbir Badal and his party colleagues are endangering the lives of the people through such gatherings,” he added. “Sukhbir & Co saw scams everywhere because their own Government had been seeped in all kinds of scams, and had pocketed crores of rupees at the cost of the people’s hard-earned money,” said the Chief Minister, dismissing all allegations as nonsensical and baseless.
“NO QUESTION OF ANY IRREGULARITY IN VACCINES GIVEN TO PVT HOSPITALS”
The 40,000-odd doses made available to some private hospitals was a one-time measure as a step to provide some vaccination options to non-priority groups in 18-45 category, said Capt Amarinder. “The hospitals were provided the vaccines at the price at which they were to buy from the manufacturers,” he pointed out, adding that the decision was taken as there were initially only two private hospitals in Punjab that had managed to procure the vaccine from the 25 percent quota reserved by the Central Government.
Students and others travelling abroad needed vaccine urgently, and were willing to pay, so the State Government had decided to make it available to private hospitals as an emergency measure, he said. “However, since the decision of the Government was not being taken in the right spirit, it was withdrawn, but there was no question of any irregularity as the entire money went into the Health Department’s vaccination fund and was to be used to buy vaccines given free by the state,” he added.
“PUNJAB MANAGED TO PURCHASE OXIMETERS AT A LOWER PRICE THAN MANY OTHER STATES FOR FATEH KITS”
On the issue of Fateh Kits, the Chief Minister said that it was creditable that the Health Department had ensured timely supplies even at the peak of the wave. Pulse oximeters were made available in these kits even though there was a shortage as there was no supply from the international markets, he said, adding that Punjab, in fact, managed to purchase these at a lower price than many other states.
SAD, BSP STAGE PROTEST; SUKHBIR COURTS ARREST
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal was detained by Punjab Police on Tuesday during a protest alleging scam in various schemes introduced by the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Government. Sukhbir was detained after he, along with scores of SAD and BSP leaders, staged a demonstration against the State Government outside the Chief Minister’s farm house at Siswan.
After his detention, Sukhbir tweeted: “Courted arrest with hundreds of SAD and BSP workers while marching to CM @capt_amarinder’s farmhouse near Chd to demand arrest of health min @BalbirSinghMLA for vaccine & fateh kit scams besides need to give market rate to farmers whose lands are acquired for highway projects (sic).”
In another tweet, he said that thousands of SAD-BSP workers had collected near Capt Amarinder Singh’s farmhouse “to wake the arrogant ‘raja’ from his slumber and demand justice for the people of Punjab.”
SAD chief added that the SAD-BSP alliance has decided to make all Congress leaders accountable for the corruption committed by them once his party forms the government in 2022. The protest rally was also addressed by Punjab BSP president Jasbir Singh Garhi who demanded that farmers be paid market rate for agricultural land acquired for highway projects.
Speaking to the media before getting detained, Sukhbir asserted that “if a storm rises, Captain will not be able to stop it.”
“If a storm rises, Captain won’t be able to stop it, even if he uses all his force. There is a scam in vaccination, there is a scam in Fateh Kit, there is a scam in SC scholarship, also farmers’ land is being acquired,” said Sukhbir.
As the protest intensified, security forces used water cannons on the protesting Akali Dal leaders and workers to disperse the crowd. The protesters were seen forcing through the barricades put up by the police, while many climbed on them carrying party flags.
The opposition party has been frequently targeting the State Government in the past few months over several issues including vaccination and COVID-19 management, among others. Today’s protest comes just months ahead of the assembly elections in Punjab due next year.
Speaking at the ‘dharna’, Sukhbir made it clear that all Congress Ministers, who had indulged in corruption, would be taken to task and booked as per law once the SAD-BSP alliance was voted to power in 2022.
He also condemned the Chief Minister for shielding the corrupt ministers. “While Balbir Sidhu is responsible for the drug de-addiction tablet scam, PPE kit scam, vaccine scam, and Fateh Kit scams, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot is responsible for the Rs 303 crore SC scholarship scam and Sukhjinder Randhawa had committed the seed scam,” he added.