Majithia health minister trade barbs over medicine scam

Majithia health minister trade barbs over medicine scam
AAP’s Harpal Singh Cheema prepares for a silent protest against Punjab excise policy at Vidhan Sabha, in
Chandigarh on Wednesday. (Express Photo: Jasbir Malhi)

Health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) legislator Bikram Singh Majithia exchanged pointed barbs during the zero hour with Majithia demanding Sidhu’s dismissal over “5 crore buprenorphine tablets worth over Rs 200 crore” going missing from the private de-addiction centres and the minister retaliating by calling him a “vapaari (trader)” and alluding to an Enforcement Directorate inquiry into his alleged links with drug dealers.

SAD legislators later staged a walkout from the House.

Raising the issue during zero hour, Majithia said there was “a medicine scam worth over Rs 200 crore in Punjab” and the “central player in that scam is Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu”. Majithia said there was an Enforcement Directorate inquiry which was marked, but “Punjab government neither marked any inquiry into that nor took any action.”

The SAD leader alleged that Health minister was shielding the accused. He said SAD MLA Dr Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi had raised the issue on Tuesday, but there was no answer from the Health minister. He demanded “immediate inquiry and dismissal” of Sidhu.

The minister hit back saying, “The man who was speaking in the loudest voice did trade of chitta (drugs) in Punjab. He is a trader.” Sidhu urged the House to bring a resolution for reopening the drugs case “pending with ED” in which Majithia was quizzed by the agency.

At this, Majithia and SAD legislators trooped into the well of the House raising slogans. Majithia said, “Principal Secretary has said that the matter be inquired into and cases registered, but minister was not letting it happen.”
After lodging their protest for sometime, the SAD MLAs walked out of the house.

Sidhu claimed the private de-addiction centres in question “purchased medicines on their own and the government only monitored the purchase”. Sidhu said, “I brought this thing (buprenorphine tablets going missing) out.” He said all such centres had been issued notices and an “inquiry was on”.

Sidhu said he got health portfolio six months ago and brought all this on record. Five crore buprenorphine tablets were found to have been used in an unauthorised manner by private de-addiction centres last year.

Leader of opposition and AAP MLA Harpal Singh Cheema asked why the Punjab government was not filing a special leave petition to make public a report submitted in Punjab and Haryana High Court in sealed cover by Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by DGP rank officer S S Chattopadhyaya. Cheema said the report contained names of “big fish and drug lords”.