The Tamil Nadu government has come under heavy scrutiny since DMK president M K Stalin's demand for disclosure of prices of the coronavirus testing kits purchased by the state. Hitting out at Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Stalin hinted towards a possible scam saying that the state government should maintain transparency while giving out such details.
The AIADMK-led government was subjected to suspicion after Chhattisgarh Minister T S Singh Deo took to Twitter to reveal the price of the kits procured by his state. "We are procuring 75,000 high-quality rapid testing kits at a benchmark price of Rs 337 + GST from a South Korean company based in India, which has proven to be the lowest bidder. The rate we have been able to close at is the lowest in India," Deo announced on Twitter.
Demanding similar transparency from the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC), Stalin pointed out that the Palaniswami government has been hiding crucial information on the matter.
Startling differences in prices of testing kits purchased by TN and Chhatisgarh
Proving Stalin's doubts to be reasonable, an official document shows that the Tamil Nadu government had purchased the rapid testing kits at a price of Rs 600 per piece. The copy of the bill reveals that the state had spent over Rs 30 crore on 5 lakh testing kits.
Here is a copy of the document:
Also, several reports suggest that the Andhra Pradesh government has purchased the rapid testing kits at a price of Rs 700 per piece, which certainly raises a lot of questions. While defending the price as well as the source of the testing kits, Palaniswami on Saturday, April 18, said that the government had placed an order of 1.25 lakh units from a company based in China at a rate approved by the Centre.
Besides, R. Umanath, Managing Director of TNMSC, said that the central government had also ordered 15 lakh units from the same company. He attributed the higher price to the abolition of import duty and health cess on coronavirus test kits by the Centre.
"Chhattisgarh had placed the order with a different company and under a different tax regime. If we placed an order now, we might get it at a rate lower than Chhattisgarh," said Umanath.
The state of Tamil Nadu has seen a steady rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the last few weeks. At present, there are 1,372 patients including 365 recovering and 15 deaths.