‘Purchase probe on, Himachal govt acted swiftly’

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Shimla : Amid allegations of irregularities in purchases by the Health Department, Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur, in an interview with The Tribune correspondent

Pratibha Chauhan, accused the Opposition of sensationalising the issue. He spoke at length on his government’s revival plan, regrouping of dissidents and Cabinet expansion. Excerpts:

The Health Department being headed by you, the Congress has sought your resignation in view of the purchase scams. What’s your take on the matter?

Whether the purchase of sanitisers or PPE kits, we acted promptly and ordered registration of FIRs. In case of purchase of ventilators, no irregularities were detected. Nevertheless, an inquiry was ordered. We bought ventilators at the same cost as Odisha — Rs 9.19 lakh. Talk of the actual cost being Rs 3 lakh is rubbish. The company has itself said that those were merely for the purpose of demonstration. Tenders were floated for the purchase of PPE kits. But we got the entire consignment from the Centre. So we did not buy any.

The Congress says the resignation of Rajeev Bindal as state BJP chief is not enough? Do you see any justification in the argument?

They must come out with evidence, facts and figures. They are making false charges based on anonymous complaints to derive political mileage. I have received complaints against CLP Leader Mukesh Agnihotri, but I have ignored these. If pushed to the wall, I will be compelled to mark an inquiry.

Bindal’s resignation has triggered speculation that there may be some proof of irregularities in purchases by the Health Department. How do you counter this charge?

He resigned on moral grounds. The party leadership felt that since the Director (Health Services) could be involved, it was only appropriate that he stepped down. But we mustn’t jump to conclusions. The audio clip is about a conversation between two persons whose voice samples are yet to be taken.

There seems murmurs of discontent within the party with talk of leaders regrouping. Do you accept this and are there any chances of Cabinet expansion?

There could be difference of opinion but ours is a disciplined party. There are some who may have got more than they deserve. They feel they have a right over everything. I have been asked by the PM to perform and he has appreciated our fight against Covid. I had planned Cabinet expansion after the Budget session but because of the pandemic, it had to be put on hold. Right now it will not be appropriate to do so.

The damage to economy is immense. Do you intend giving more concessions ?

With our limited resources, it would not be possible to help all. At least 55,000 jobs in the tourism sector are gone. Also, 2 lakh persons have returned home from across India and abroad. Based on the Cabinet sub-committee report, we will try to help everyone.

Source : The Tribune