A post grad journalism student of SIMC, Pune with a passion for using words to get my message across in the most unique ways possible and curiosity is the force that drives me to learn and experience more every day.
India has reported a rising number of fake and unauthorized Covid-19 test reports. Thousands of people, desperate to get themselves tested have fallen prey to multiple scams across the country. A complicated procedure of getting tested has led to frustration among many. The scammers saw this as an opportunity to make quick money, thereby jeopardizing India's fight against the coronavirus.
The discoveries of fake COVID-19 testing camps in various parts of the country have shocked everyone. Here are some instances of counterfeit COVID-19 reports in India.
In March, airport authorities in Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) said that some passengers flying into the financial capital were providing with fake COVID-19 test reports, reported the Hindustan Times.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had termed these instances as "rare". These reports showed RT-PCR tests, for which there is no mechanism to track the veracity of the results unless tested again, said BMC. Some passengers were reported to have shown fake certificates, made with the help of Photoshop by changing the dates, names and PAN numbers. BMC had also filed an FIR against a family based in Khar, who had produced a COVID-negative report exposed as fake after laboratory results showed as positive.
Delhi Police had arrested five employees of the Genestrings lab, located in south Delhi, for generating fake COVID-19 reports.
The scammers had started this fraud on April 23, and by April 29, the alleged scammers had dished out more than 400 fake test results. The incident came to light when 44 members of a family belonging to South Delhi's Khirki Extension gave their samples for Covid-19 testing, reported Hindustan Times. One of the family members tested positive but had no symptoms, so he got himself tested in another lab where he tested negative.
The police was eventually contacted, and a case was registered of cheating and criminal conspiracy at Malviya Nagar Police Station. Among the five arrested, two were lab technicians and one an application scientist.
The Uttarkhand government authorized eleven private companies to carry out RT-PCR tests of people attending the famous Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. The grand festival, held from April 1 to April 30, occurs in an area spread across parts of Haridwar, Dehradun, Tehri and Pauri districts. The companies were authorized to carry out the tests to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus. These labs carried out nearly 1 lakh tests.
However, investigations revealed that these 1 lakh tests were only carried out on paper, and no actual test was done, reported India Today. The story of 1 lakh fake RT-PCR tests came to light when the health secretary ordered the Haridwar District Magistrate to form a committee to investigate.
Following the complaints of Haridwar's Chief Medical Officer, Dr SK Jha, the Police filed a case on June 17. Presently, the investigation is being conducted primarily at two levels – by the District Administration and the administration in charge of the Kumbh Mela. The companies prepared fake reports to maximize their profits. The labs have been booked under sections 269, 420, 468, 471, 120 B, and 188 of the Indian Penal Code, along with sections of the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Act.
Last month, Kolkata Police and the state police had received tip-offs from the state health department that for ₹ 5000 per test, fake Covid reports were being provided.
Upon investigating the case, the Police listed 30 suspects. The state police also asked people to check the ID cards properly before allowing any collecting agents to come home. The state health department had stepped in and requested Police to stop the fraudulence. In one of the cases, 21 residents of a building in Entally, Kolkata got themselves tested, reported Times of India. The result showed everyone positive, while two of the residents had clear symptoms. Some of the residents scanned the QR codes on the test reports and found they were tests conducted almost a year ago.
While the authorities are trying hard to bust fake Covid reports across the country, they have another menace in hand in fake vaccination camps. On June 25, Mumbai Police reported that around 2000 people were injected with counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines. Instead of Covid vaccines, people were injected with a saline solution, reported NDTV. Mumbai Police had arrested ten people, which included two doctors at a private hospital. A total of nine camps organized by the syndicate were discovered.
Meanwhile, Police in Kolkata arrested a man, Debanjan Deb (28), who was posing as an IAS officer with a master's degree in genetics. He had registered 600-odd shots of amikacin, an anti-bacterial drug in the name of the Covishield vaccine. Even Trinamool Congress MP Mimi Chakraborty had fallen prey to the scam and busted the scammer after not receiving the post-vaccination message.
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