While Coronavirus pandemic is creating a terrible situation in entire Assam it is suspected that a huge corruption has taken place in the state in the name of the pandemic.

A state government order has made way for the corruption.

The corruption has occurred in the name of the essential commodities distributed among those, who have been infected by Coronavirus, the people who have come in contact with the COVID19 positive patients and the returnees from outside Assam.

The state health department in an order issued on May 21, 2020, said each of the families, who would remain in 14-day quarantine, would get essential commodities worth Rs 2,000.

In the same order, the department also issued a list of essential commodities with the rates fixed for the items.

But there is a huge difference between the rates of the health department and the rates of the essential commodities available in the retail market as fixed by the state government.

According to the May 21, 2020 order, the Assam government shows expenditure of Rs 300 in 2 kg of dal. That means, the government has spent Rs 150 in 1 kg of dal.

But at the same time, according to the list of prices of essential commodities as fixed by the state food & civil supplies department, the rate of 1 kg dal was Rs 75-Rs 105.

According to the food & civil supplies department’s price list, the highest price of two kg of dal maybe Rs 210.

The health department shows it has spent Rs 30 against 1 kg of salt provided to the people who are in quarantine.

But when enquired, it came to light that the price of the salt provided to the quarantined people is Rs 15-20 per kg.

There is also price difference in onion.

The state government has distributed 2 kg of onions to each of those who are in quarantine and the expenditure for the same is shown as Rs 120.

That means, the price of 1 kg of onion is Rs 60, according to the health department.

But as per the list of essential commodities fixed by the food & civil supplies department in May, the price of 1 kg of onion was Rs 15-22.

Northeast Now has a list of food & civil supplies department issued for Karimganj district on May 21, 2020.

According to that list, in Karimganj, the highest price of 1 kg of dal was fixed at Rs 105, 1 kg onion at Rs 22 and 1 kg of salt was fixed at Rs 20.

There was also huge difference in the prices compared to the list prepared by the food & civil supplies for Dhubri on May 27.

In Dhubri, the highest price of 1 kg of dal was Rs 93, onion Rs 18 and the highest price of 1 kg of salt was Rs 26.

The difference of prices of essential commodities has also come to light when compared the list of the food & civil supplies prepared for Kamrup Mtero on July 17 and the prices shown by the health department.

In Kamrup Metro district, the highest price of dal is Rs 100, onion is available at Rs 30 while 1 kg of salt is still available at Rs 22.

These are the lists of retail prices.

But as the government procured the essential commodities in bulk at wholesale rates, the prices would be definitely more less.

The vast differences of the prices of essential commodities as shown by the health department and the market prices indicate a huge corruption in Assam.

In just three items, a price difference of Rs 150 has been observed.

As published by the Assam government on July 24, a total of 1.20 lakh quarantined families have been provided essential commodities.

If calculated with 1.20 lakh families, it is observed that a corruption of Rs 150 x 1,20,000=Rs 1,80,00,000 has taken place in the state.

In this regard, we tried to contact the principal secretary to the state health department, Samir Sinha.

But he did not receive the call.

However, Kamrup Metro deputy commissioner Biswajit Pegu, when contacted over the phone, said, “The prices of commodities continue to remain up and down. Therefore, the rates have been fixed in such a manner so that no problem arises in procuring the items. Although prices of some commodities are seen high that is adjusted as the families are also provided items like sanitizer and toothpaste.”

The deputy commissioner also informed that money is also spent in packaging and transportation of the essential commodities.

However, in the list, an amount of Rs 300 has been kept aside for other essential items.

The DC said, “I will have to understand the matter. You have noticed an important matter.”

The anomalies in distribution of commodities among the people, who are under quarantine, have come to our notice at a time while Assam is fighting against both COVID19 pandemic and floods.

Now question has been raised hasn’t the Assam government itself opened a way for such a scam during the crisis situation in the state? What will be the stand of Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who speaks of zero tolerance against corruption?

Anirban Pathak

Anirban Pathak is a Senior News Producer of Northeast Now. He can be reached at: anirbanpathak57@gmail.com