GUWAHATI: Amidst a row surrounding the quality of Chinese Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Assam’s Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the state government would not, for now, use the 50,000 PPE kits that it imported from China.
Assam was the first state in the country to directly order the PPE kits from China. A Blue Dart cargo flying non-stop for five hours from Guangzhou carrying the kits had landed at Guwahati airport on April 15 evening. The consignment was received by Sarma himself. He had then said the Centre was kept in the loop on the order.
Briefing journalists in Guwahati on Saturday, the Minister rubbished reports the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) “rejected 50,000 Chinese PPE kits”.
He also said the government had not released any money against the consignment. The advance payment for the kits was apparently made by some private parties on behalf of the government.
“When we ordered the PPE kits from China, we had barely around 2,000-2,200 of them with us. We took a bold decision and ordered the kits. Unfortunately, some people in Assam came out with the news that the DRDO rejected 50,000 Chinese kits, thereby giving an impression these were our kits. I myself checked and learnt that the DRDO never issued a statement saying it rejected the kits. It said it only tested. Testing and rejection are two different things,” Sarma said.
He said as the matter was widely talked about, it had created anxiety among doctors and nurses in Assam.
“We already have 1.5 lakh PPE kits that were brought from different places of India. We requested the person who brought the 50,000 kits from China to keep them at his store in Guwahati. We said we will take those only when we need them. We don’t want our doctors and nurses to go through any anxiety at this time. So, somebody will be losing money,” Sarma said.
He said the government was not going to make any payment against the kits at this moment and that it would get the kits tested at the DRDO or any Government of India-recognised lab.
“For now, we want to maintain status quo. The kits are in Assam and in our comfort zone. We haven’t said if the tests reveal that there is no fault with the kits, we will take those immediately. When the doctors are satisfied and we face a crisis, only then they will wear those. We will not pressurise them,” the Minister added.