New Delhi: The Uttarakhand government has ordered the Haridwar district administration to file an FIR (first information report) against private labs accused of conducting fake COVID tests during Kumbh Mela, held in the state between April 1 and 30.
A preliminary investigation carried out by the chief controlling officer (CCO) of Covid cases Abhishek Tripathi last week had revealed that as many as 1 lakh fake tests had been performed by 22 private labs roped in by the state government mainly from Delhi and Haryana.
Citing ANI report, NDTV quoted state government’s spokesperson Subodh Uniyal as saying, “Uttarakhand government has ordered the Haridwar district administration to register FIR in Covid testing scam during Mahakumbh. An order issued to file a case against labs from Delhi and Haryana, which conducted testing at five places in Haridwar during Kumbh Mela.”
Apparently, this was done by private labs by issuing fake Covid test reports in the name of random people on the basis of their identity cards and phone numbers. The issue of fake Covid tests came to light when a devotee who attended Mahakumbh had received an SMS on his mobile number stating that his samples had been collected, and soon he was sent a COVID negative report. However, neither were his samples collected nor was his test done. Then, he lodged a complaint with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
“The complainant had claimed before the ICMR that when he went to attend the Mahakumbh, he had received an SMS that his samples have been collected for the test along with a proper valid ID number. However, he gave no samples. The ICMR, citing the complaint, asked the health department to verify it after which COVID-19 CCO conducted the inquiry,” Hindustan Times had quoted a senior Uttarakhand health official as saying.
Reportedly, the labs did so to meet the daily testing target of 50,000 tests set by the Uttarakhand high court. According to PTI, about 2,600 devotees had tested positive out of the nearly two lakh tests conducted by medical personnel during the religious gathering.
The true extent of the ‘scam’ is yet to be known. According to one account, as many as 400,000 tests conducted during Kumbh are turned out to be fake.
Soon after the issue came to light, payment to all labs which had been assigned the responsibility of conducting tests – RT-PCR and rapid antigen – during the Kumbh has been withheld for the time being due to the ongoing investigation, Haridwar district magistrate C. Ravishankar had said at the time.
Nearly 70 lakh devotees are believed to have participated in the mass religious gathering even as COVID-19 cases were surging in the country due to a deadly second wave. Despite criticism from several quarters against mass gathering, Kumbh Mela had been given a go-ahead both by the Uttarakhand government and Centre, only to be bracktracked later.