Probe to find out how a pvt agency contracted for Covid testing in Mahakumbh | Latest India News
Haridwar / Dehradun Police formed a Special Investigative Team (SIT) on Friday to investigate allegations of 100,000 fake Covid-19 tests carried out during the Mahakumbh in April as investigators focused on how an unknown private agency had got the contract at the high-profile event.
Haridwar Chief Superintendent of Police (SSP) Senthil Avoodai K Raj said in an order that the seven-member SIT has been formed to speed up the ongoing investigation into the private agency Max Corporate Services and two private laboratories , Lalchandani Labs and Nalwa Laboratories based in Hisar. Two other investigations, one by the Kumbh Mela administration and the other by the district administration, are already underway.
“The task force has been formed to assist and ensure a swift investigation of cases filed in false Covid tests,” said Ashok Kumar, chief executive of the Uttarakhand police. The SIT has asked people to provide any information about false tests.
The development came on a day when Max Corporate Services – a private company based in Noida and unrelated to the Max Healthcare group – moved the Uttarakhand High Court against the FIR housed at Kotwali Police Station in Haridwar, arguing that it This was a service provider who had hired other labs to conduct the tests.
Investigators are now investigating how a relatively unknown agency bagged the lucrative testing contract. Max Corporate Services was initially rejected by the district health administration as it was not recognized by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), but was later chosen by the health administration of Kumbh Mela after having subcontracted two laboratories recognized by the ICMR for the tests.
At the end of March, Max Corporate Services signed memoranda of understanding with Lalchandani Lab and Nalva Labs. On paper, the two labs performed around 123,000 Covid-19 tests, including around 118,000 rapid antigen tests and 5,000 RT-PCRs, investigators said.
Over the past two days, investigators have interviewed Kumbh Mela’s health officer, Dr AS Sengar. “The health administration in mela probably did not perform laboratory checks, which led them to easily perform false tests. Even those who collected samples are now under the scanner, ”an investigator said on condition of anonymity.
Sengar previously said the mela administration is committed to investigating the allegations and has set up an internal investigation. “From fake tests, fake sample collectors to fake phone numbers, every aspect is looked at. We have to wait for the final report of the investigation as it is submitted, ”said Shambhu Kumar Jha, Chief Medical Officer of Haridwar.
Kumbh mela has been reduced this year, but worshipers have thronged Haridwar for months despite experts claiming the crowds and widespread violation of Covid protocol could trigger a surge in infections. About 9.1 million pilgrims made the sacred plunge into the Ganges from January 14 to April 27. The bulk – at least six million people – gathered in April, coinciding with the worst wave of the second wave of the pandemic.
Allegations of fake testing surfaced last week after a resident of Faridkot complained to authorities that he received a message for collecting his Covid-19 report when he had never been tested. The complaint sparked an investigation that uncovered around 100,000 bogus rapid antigen tests.
Real-time data verification through the ICMR portal revealed spurious entries based on cell phone numbers and addresses of people who have never been tested. By contacting these people, many people said that they had not even visited Haridwar in April.
On Thursday, the three labs were booked for negligence, spreading disease, cheating and criminal association, and under sections of the 2005 Disaster Management Act and 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act.
Lalchandani Labs and Nalwa Labs have both denied the claims. Max Corporate Services was not available for comment.
But on Friday, Max Corporate Services approached the Uttarakhand High Court to seek protection from police actions and arguing that it had contracted nationally accredited laboratories for testing during the Mahakumbh and was only a service provider.
“If false tests have been performed, Max Corporate Services has no role to play and is in fact willing to find out if such a thing has happened,” said firm attorney Kartikey Hari Gupta.
Gupta said Max Corporate Services facilitated testing through the two labs.
“All sample collection and other data entry has been done well with the knowledge and supervision of government health authorities. We asked the court to protect the applicant from any coercive police action and however the government wishes to investigate, our client is ready and willing to cooperate, ”he added.
Authorities called on ordinary people to provide information, prompting a resident of Haridwar district to complain on Friday that he received messages on his phone regarding the sample collection and negative results – although he did not have no samples given. Ashwani Kumar Yadav, a resident of Mathana village, said he received messages from a local private lab on May 19 and 24 that his sample had been collected and his report was negative.