By our Special Correspondent
Even as 23 days have passed since the announcement made by Mr Satya Pal Malik, the Governor of J&K cancelling the Group Mediclaim Insurance for State Government Employees including the retired employees, the offices of the broking firm Trinity Reinsurance Brokers Ltd at Jammu and Srinagar continue to transact business as usual, as if nothing had happened! They are registering and disbursing claims and even calling clients to update their details submitted through their respective departments or Treasury Officers as the case may be. The government having already paid its first installment of Rs61 crores and the employees too having paid their first installment by 30th September, the broking agency is doing its work without break.
According to informed sources the state law department had slapped a notice on the Reliance General Insurance Company or RGIC immediately after the Governor made the announcement on 26th October. The RGIC has ‘appropriately’ responded to the notice served on it and there is no further correspondence between the two, said a highly placed source in Jammu office of the broking agency. According to informed sources the authorities in state Law Department are speechless in view of their having vetted drafts of all documents in the run up to the final signing of the contract. This issue has put the Governor’s own reputation at stake say sources in the Secretariat!
The employees and the retirees are keeping their fingers crossed! Those who have preferred claims and got the same feel satisfied so far and would like to continue whereas Secretariat employees union leaders who campaigned against the contract and the retirees, who feel discriminated with Rs22,228 premium as against Rs 8776 prescribed for in-service employees, are adamant on seeing the contract reviewed or terminated.
It is tough time for the employees who are undergoing treatment in outside state hospitals as they are not sure whether or not they will get their claims settled. If nothing happens and the cancellation orders of the contract do not come, the government as well as the employees will have to pay the second installment The next installment falls due on 31st December whereas 3rd installment falls due on 31st March. It may be recalled that following mounting pressures and allegations of favouritism from employees unions as well as the politicians of all hues, the J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik scrapped the controversial Group Medical Insurance contract for state employees that was awarded to RGIC within a month of its launch.
The Governor while announcing scrapping of the controversial contract alleged that the deal was “full of frauds”. He even went on talkinhg about the ‘involvement of some top state officials’ in pushing the deal through in a “hush-hush manner” and stated that those found to be involved won’t be spared. As a sequel to the cancellation of the contract, the demand for a high-level probe to find those involved in the fraud has grown stronger.
The governor without mincing words, claimed that “some bungling” had come to the surface during examination of the complaints in the award of the contract to Reliance. There was some bungling. I read the entire file and when I reached the conclusion that something is wrong, it did not take me a minute to cancel it,” Malik had told reporters on the sidelines of a function in the summer capital of Srinagar.
Adding that the expensive contract was finalised and allotted in “haste” on October 1, despite strong opposition from state employees-led by the secretariat employees’ union which had approached the Raj Bhavan besides the Finance Department.
“We have cancelled it (the contract) now…I can’t reveal everything to you at this point, but there are officials involved in it and they will be punished,” said the outspoken governor, known for making statements on controversial issues.
The state administrative council cleared the contract on August 31, and questions have been raised on whether details of the contract were studied then! There are no immediate answers to these questions. The SAC, is headed by the governor, which approved the contract at a premium of Rs 8,776 for employees and 22,228 for pensioners. The contract was allotted for a period of one year, to begin with. While J&K has around 4.5 lakh employees, the number of pensioners varies from 1 to 1.25 lakh persons.
How the deal became suspicious?
Soon after its implementation, several loopholes were identified in the contract:
!. It came to be known that the government had “deviated” from set practice, and instead of floating the tender online and giving it wide publicity, it allowed advertisement through a broker, M/S Trinity Reinsurance Brokers Ltd, in some newspapers.
2. A clause in the original tender – that companies which enter the bidding process should have experience of working in the state – was removed from the new contract.
3. Another requirement that only insurance companies with a turnover of Rs 5,000 crore in 2017-18 would be eligible for participation in the competition had also been dropped to pave way for RGIC
4. That the government made the participation of all employees in the insurance scheme mandatory even as a large chunk of them had opted for insurance cover from other companies.
Insiders say a close scrutiny of the matter revealed that “most of the apprehensions raised were found to be genuine”. “The deal was not only murky but full of frauds,” said an official, on the condition of anonymity.
Several attempts made to talk with the Principal Secretary Finance to know his views failed as no contact could be established.
According to informed sources the authorities in state Law Department are speechless in view of their having vetted drafts of all documents in the run up to the final signing of the contract.