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Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad K Sangma, on Tuesday, said that the state government had made the right investment in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and easing the discomfort of its citizens.
While replying to a short duration discussion tabled by Congress MLA P.T. Sawkmie on the expenditure incurred by the state government amounting to crores of rupees in the fight against COVID-19, Sangma said that the state government spent ₹ 399 crore on various health and non-health aspects of COVID-19 management.
Sangma informed that out of ₹ 399 crore, they had paid bills amounting to ₹ 251 crore, and the pending liabilities are ₹ 148 crore.
According to the CM, the State has conducted over 2.14 lakh tests adding that in two months; they have established two Bio-Safety Level II (BSL II) laboratories at Tura Civil Hospital in West Garo Hills and Pasteur Institute in Shillong.
The Chief Minister also informed that the expenditure by the Health Department, including the Directorate of Health Services and National Health Mission, was ₹ 271.2 crore. The Revenue and Disaster Management (SDRF) spent ₹ 23.7 crore, Revenue and Disaster Management (PM CARES) spent ₹ 3.5 crore, ₹ 7.4 crore was spent by the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, ₹ 14.7 crore was spent by Chief Minister’s Special Grant, Labour Department spent ₹ 51 crore, Mining & Geology Department (DMF) spent ₹ 8.9 crore, Community & Rural Development and Urban Affairs (SRWP & SUWP) spent ₹ 15.1 crore and Urban Affairs spent ₹ 3.5 crore.
He added that ₹ 103.8 crore was funded by tapping into various sources, including the state government’s sources.
The Chief Minister informed that the ‘key items of expenditure’ was on increasing the number of testing facilities, setting up of corona care centres, installation of ventilators, quarantine facilities for health workers, buying protective equipment, ambulances, sanitisation, one-time cash support to stranded citizens and returnees, provision kits, relief to building & other construction workers, unregistered workers and on MLA schemes.
“The government did not spare any effort in dealing with the pandemic, and the efforts have been appreciated by the World Health Organization,” Sangma said.
“The government had to take a decision, and we took it and looking back, it was a right decision,” he said.
Congress MLA from Mawsynram H. M Shangpliang questioned why ₹ 8.3 crore was spent on the purchase and supply of Sodium Hypochlorite alone within two months (April-May).
He demanded a special audit be conducted to check ‘unwanted COVID expenditure.
The Chief Minister responded stating that only ₹ 1 crore was spent on Sodium Hypochlorite and that the amount of ₹ 8.3 crore also included the cost of sanitising roads, hospitals, residences, etc., and transportation charges.
“It was a war-like situation, and the most important thing was to save lives,” said the CM adding that based on this, “We decided to spend more money.”
In response to a question by Congress legislator George Lyngdoh on why the Industries Department had to spend ₹ 3.3 crore for the supply of masks, the Chief Minister stated that the amount was spent to help self-help groups (SHGs) produce masks.
(Edited by Christopher Gatphoh)