Health Minister | K. Sudhakar Karnataka

‘PAC charges on COVID-19 management politically motivated’

The Opposition Congress has been alleging corruption in procurement of COVID-19 material by the State government during the pandemic. Recently, the State Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) identified several lapses in procurement of COVID-19 material resulting in additional expenditure worth many crores. However, in an interview with The Hindu, Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said that the PAC’s charges are ‘politically motivated’ and PAC has only “dug a hill and found a rat.”

Excerpts from the interview

The State Legislature’s PAC identified lapses in tendering process and procurement of COVID-19 material during the second wave. It said that it resulted in additional expenditure worth many crores.

This is totally false. The PAC’s findings are politically motivated. Targeting and criticising the government on COVID-19 management has become a habit with the opposition Congress. There is no better system of procurement other than what we have followed.

Besides, the procurement is done through the Karnataka State Drugs Logistics and Warehousing Society and is monitored by senior officials at the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) level. I am not part of it and no files come to me. The PAC’s queries have been replied to by our officials. Let the committee take it up legally instead of making noise in the media.

The third wave was predicted to hit Karnataka in September-October. However, we have not seen a surge even post Ganesha festival. Some experts are now talking about endemicity. Is Karnataka close to that?

It is hard to predict the behaviour of a pandemic. There are various models to predict the onset of waves but their success rates are low. However, we do know that pandemics are prone to multiple waves. Many Western countries have already witnessed third and fourth waves. India may witness a third wave or may not. WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan had recently said that India may be entering endemicity. If there is no new variant, that may be the case.

Karnataka was caught unawares when the second wave hit. How prepared are we now, in case of a third wave, now that most public places are open?

No one can be fully prepared for a pandemic. Our government had done considerable capacity augmentation, but the speed and scale of the second wave surprised all of us. Third wave may or may not happen but it is our responsibility to be prepared. We have significantly augmented our capacity.

Karnataka had only 725 ICU beds before COVID-19. This has been augmented to 3,877 in government medical colleges and government hospitals. Before COVID-19, the State had 4,847 oxygenated beds. This is 28,447 as of August 2021. The number of regular beds have been increased to 50,629 from 41,378. We have taken steps to plug oxygen supply gap too. Government facilities had a capacity of 320 MT before COVID-19. We have augmented it to 1,207 MT as of last month. We have augmented the number of oxygen cylinders from 2,180 to 13,588. Oxygen concentrators have gone up from 585 to 6,511.

You have been saying that the State is determined to vaccinate the entire 4.97 crore adult population by December end. With the gap between two doses of Covishield still 84 days, is it possible to meet this deadline? We have nearly 25% who are yet to get first dose.

Karnataka has achieved first dose coverage of 80% as of September 29. It can increase to 85% over the next 8-10 days. Many people will also take Covaxin which has an interval of 4-6 weeks. With this, I am confident that we will be able to vaccinate near-100% by December.

There are several allegations about under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in the State. Is our reporting transparent?

Historically, the registration of deaths in our country has been poor. In 2011, only 66% deaths were registered with the Civil Registry System (CRS). The number of deaths registered with CRS has been going up significantly before and during COVID-19. We should not look at 2020 in isolation. I assert that our government has recorded all deaths during COVID-19.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 1:12:10 AM |

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