After vaccine shortage and vaccine hesitancy, the state governments and the Centre now have a new problem to deal with —fake vaccine drives.
Fake Camp In Kolkata
Last week, MP Mimi Chakraborty claimed to have busted one such drive in Kolkata's Kasba area. The MP who had been invited to the camp by its promoter Debanjan Deb grew suspicious after failing to receive the customary SMS on her phone. Chakraborty informed the Kolkata Police which led to the scam being unearthed. Deb was subsequently arrested. What has emerged now is nothing short of a horror story.
The son of a retired deputy excise collector, Deb had posed as an IAS officer. His classmates recall him as a timid boy who never got into any mischief. In 2014, he appeared for his UPSC exams but he could not crack it. However, he told his parents that he was successful and will be travelling for probationer training, said a police officer. Instead of travelling to Mussoorie for his training, he went to work with an event management firm and during that stint came out with a few song albums. In 2017, he was back and told his parents that his training was over and he had gained a place in the state secretariat. Last year, after the pandemic struck, he started procuring sanitisers, masks, PPEs, gloves and rented a few rooms at a club in Taltala to run his business.
Deb had befriended powerful people and had built such a network that he was even invited for blood donation camps and other social welfare works conducted by the police and social clubs in the city. He was also able to successfully open a current bank account in the name of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) by faking the signatures of officials. The Kolkata Police said that Deb claimed during interrogation that he had written to Serum Institute in Pune for Covishield vaccines. He also claimed to have carried out only two such drives. It is estimated that he provided "vaccines" to at least 171 people.
An attempt to murder charge has been slapped on him and three of his associates along with other sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Fake Camps In Mumbai
Kolkata is not the only city to be affected by fake vaccination drives. On May 30, a vaccination drive was conducted at the per-crust housing society in Kandivli West. About 390 residents had been administered the "vaccine". However, residents grew suspicious after their certificates showed different hospital names and the hospitals denied holding any such drive. Strangely, not even a single member showed usual side effects like fever or body ache. On June 24, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court that over 2,000 people received fake COVID vaccines at nine separately held private vaccination camps in Mumbai.
West Bengal Suspends Private Vaccination
In the wake of the fake vaccination camp in Kasba, the West Bengal government has temporarily suspended all private vaccination camps and called for a high-level meeting on Monday, June 28, to formulate more stringent measures to check such malpractices in future. However, vaccinations will be allowed in government and private hospitals in the state.
While the move is a welcome one, more needs to be done to stop such fake camps for the safety of all concerned. It will also hamper the confidence among the public in vaccines and that is not a good thing as many states are dealing with vaccine hesitancy.