Pinarayi knew of PPE kit purchase: Shailaja

Former health minister refutes graft charges
Former Kerala Health minister KK Shailaja (Photo | EPS)
Former Kerala Health minister KK Shailaja (Photo | EPS)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the dock after the Lok Ayukta served her a notice, former health minister KK Shailaja rejected corruption charges levelled against her over the purchase of PPE kits at exorbitant rates during the Covid period. The senior CPM leader further said the kits were purchased at a higher price with the knowledge of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Shailaja made the clarification a day after the Lok Ayukta ordered an investigation against her based on a complaint alleging corruption in the purchase of kits. Noticeably, the CPM leadership has not issued any statement supporting the party’s central committee member.

After inaugurating a cultural programme organised by NRK organisation Kala in Kuwait, Shailaja said the government decided to purchase kits at Rs 1,500 each, though the same were earlier available for `500, as there was a scarcity at the time. “Officials of KMCL had informed me that PPE kits would be out of stock soon. If we don’t purchase them, our health workers would be severely compromised. I checked with the chief minister who said we should buy and store them, and at the same time, quality should be ensured,” Shailaja said.

“The market price of a PPE kit, which was earlier available for Rs 500, then shot up to Rs 1,500. I again checked with the chief minister. He said we should not bother about the price as people’s lives were more important. Since the pandemic was raging, we had the freedom then to waive rules and buy materials under the Disaster Management Act. That’s how a decision was taken to purchase 50,000 PPE kits at Rs 1,500 each,” Shailaja said.

‘Order cancelled after more kits started hitting market’

“We purchased 15,000 of them. By that time, more kits started hitting the market and prices went down. So, we cancelled the order for the remaining 35,000 kits and bought the rest at the market price,” explained K K Shailaja.

Curiously, not many from the CPM leadership, barring Kannur district secretary M V Jayarajan, came forward to defend Shailaja who had won global accolades for her handling of the pandemic situation. Usually when such allegations come up against senior party leaders, party leaders queue up to counter the same.

There have been allegations that a section within the party has been trying to sideline Shailaja for some time now. Despite her good performance as health minister, the senior leader who won with the biggest majority in the 2021 assembly election, was denied a cabinet berth this time. Recently, when she was selected for the Ramon Magsaysay award, the party leadership decided against her accepting the same.
Jaleel takes a ‘dig’ at Lok Ayukta

In a curious development, former minister and Left legislator K T Jaleel on Saturday took an indirect dig at Lok Ayukta. In a Facebook post without mentioning the notice served on Shailaja, Jaleel said it was good to know that Lok Ayukta knows how to conduct a preliminary enquiry and serve notices to the parties. The Left MLA was indicating that he was not given a chance to be heard when it passed a judgement against him in the nepotism case. Jaleel had to resign from the first Pinarayi cabinet after a verdict by Lok Ayukta.

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