The story begins when the Andhra Pradesh Government thought of procuring two lakh rapid testing kits from South Korean manufacturer SD Biosensor and imported each kit for Rs 730 and 1 lakh kits were delivered by the South Korean company. The scam was revealed when a tweet from the Chhattisgarh Health Minister T.S. Singh Deo, indicated that Chhattisgarh Government procured 75000 rapid testing kits at a benchmark price of ₹337 + GST from the lowest bidder.
The same lot was imported from South Korea for Andhra Pradesh also, questions were raised as to why the YSRCP Government paid almost double the price in purchasing these kits and if Jagan Mohan Reddy and his aides were in search of financial opportunities during the pandemic.
AP Government and controversies during crises share a special bond. Despite the tall claims of prohibition of alcohol in AP, the closure of liquor shops for 42 days as part of nationwide lockdown was the first-ever longest non-prohibition shutdown in Andhra Pradesh. At the time when numbers of cases were rising in AP, the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led Government opened up state-run liquor shops. This decision was followed by a liquor-related murder, two road accidents in Chittoor district, incidents of domestic violence, two road accidents in Nellore and Krishna districts, three suicides and multiple petty crimes.
There’s more to the story. YSRCP MLA Biyyapu Madhusudan Reddy from Srikalahasti Assembly in Chittoor district organized a rally with 35 vehicles to distribute groceries. After this much criticised publicity stunt, 12 Government officials who participated in the event tested positive for COVID-19 and the area turned into a major hotspot in the State. B. Madhusudan Reddy was not the only YSRCP MLA who flouted norms. YSRCP MLA Venkataiah Goud from Palamaneru Assembly constituency of Chittoor district had inaugurated a bridge with about 150 people in his constituency. There was no social distancing maintained at the event, which led to the further spread of the virus around the area. Another YSRCP MLA R.K. Roja, from Nagari constituency in Chittoor district participated in a borewell inauguration programme with her followers. YSRCP MLA Prasanna Kumar Reddy from Kovur constituency in Nellore district further violated the lockdown rules and was seen distributing groceries, which prompted a gathering of 4,500 people. While the HC has served notices to these 4 YSRCP MLAs, neither the MLAs nor the leaders of the ruling party have come forward to explain themselves, let alone comment or issue a public apology.
It is a major concern that amid a global health crisis, the party-in-power and its people are being caught in one controversy after another. Safety of the citizens should remain paramount for public representatives. They should set an example for others and not flout norms to misuse their position. The Chief Minister – Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy did comment on the test kit procurement saying that the final payment will be done as per prevailing and appropriate rates. Nonetheless, Jagan will not only have to contain the virus spread but also take strategic decisions in that direction. How he does it will set the tone for his second year in office that started on 31 May, earlier this year and the future of 5 crore people of Andhra.