Bhubaneswar: Questions like what is actually spent towards treatment of COVID-19 patients and what is the share of the Centre and the Odisha government and how much is being paid to private hospitals for treating COVID patients are being heaved at increasing frequency and velocity. All this was triggered by an audio clip of a conversation between two friends that went viral on social media leading to their arrests, which further added fire to the already prevailing suspicions over the mismanagement of the pandemic.
It is not an isolated incident as people are now demanding answers through audio clips and videos which are circulating on various social media platforms.
Even COVID-19 patients themselves are asking such questions to the State government. “I stayed for 11 days at a hospital and was provided food for seven days. The claim of Odisha government that crores of rupees are spent towards treatment is absolutely absurd,” said Madhav Mohapatra, a recovered COVID-19 patient.
“How much money was sanctioned by the Centre and how much was spent for COVID hospitals? Odisha government should put out these details in public domain. The trust of people on the government will increase if such information is shared,” said RTI Activist, Pradip Pradhan.
In its written complaint before Bhubaneswar DCP on August 7, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner had alleged that in the controversial audio clip, two persons Biswajit and Laxmikanta claimed that Rs 1.5 lakh to 2.5 lakh is being given by the Central Government for treatment of each COVID patient and the same is being misappropriated by the BMC, private hospitals and the Health department. Further, that a target of obtaining 100 COVID patients per day has been given to the aforesaid Hospitals. Even people who are not tested positive for COVID are being sent to hospitals so that the target given to the BMC officers is achieved, the complaint read.
Without sharing information on the actual expenses, BMC termed such allegations as deliberate and malicious attempt to propagate false information. Both Biswajit and Laxmikanta have been arrested in this connection.
Not only the common man, even political leaders are apprehensive about Odisha government’s COVID-19 management. The opposition parties also smell massive corruption and have raised several questions like—kickbacks in mask and kit procurement and who all received undue favours from Odisha government during the COVID-19 pandemic and how much money was spent for setting up COVID hospitals?
The Congress has demanded a white paper on the COVID-19 management expenditure.
“COVID-19 patients are only given paracetamol and vitamin tablets. But the State government is spending crores of rupees in COVID-19 management. Odisha government should either publish a white paper or come up with a plausible clarification,” said Congress MLA, Santosh Singh Saluja.
Odisha BJP Vice-President, Bhrugu Buxi Patra said, “Though several questions have been raised including lapses in procurement of PPE kits, Odisha government has not given any answers yet.”
Responding to the allegations of the Opposition parties, Government Chief Whip, Pramila Mallick said, “There has been no corruption and everything is going on the right track. Concerned department ministers can clarify more,” said Mallick.