Decoys, informers help police nab black marketeers
With instances of black-marketing of oxygen cylinders and crucial drugs to treat Covid-19 emerging every day, the Delhi Police on Tuesday asked its personnel to activate their human intelligence networks, keep a close watch on social media posts, visit scrap godowns, and use decoy customers to trap hoarders who are fleecing Covid patients and their families by charge heft sums of money for a single cylinder or medicine vial.
On Tuesday, Delhi high court pulled up the Delhi government, and said its system was not working since the black marketing of oxygen cylinders and crucial medicines was rampant.
Delhi has been hit by a severe shortage of drugs such as remdesivir, faviprarir and ivermectin, a scarcity that has been exacerbated by hoarders and black marketeers who are selling them at rates 10-15 times their retail value. For instance, HT reported earlier that a dealer in north Delhi offered to sell a customer a vial of remdesivir for ₹25,000, as against an MRP of about ₹3,000.
Police said they have also started monitoring the activities of staff at hospitals and pharmacies to see how oxygen and medicines were reaching black marketeers.
On Monday, a woman nurse of a private hospital was arrested for allegedly selling remdesivir injections, and the technical director of the intensive care unit (ICU) of another private hospital was arrested for rerouting oxygen cylinders to the black market, a senior police officer said. “The nurse was selling one remdesivir vial for ₹38,000 to her conduit, Sudhir, who further sold it to any person in need for ₹60,000. Both were arrested on Monday,” said DCP (Rohini) Pranav Tayal.
Over the past week, Delhi Police have arrested 18 people and recovered 104 remdesivir vials, over 100 oxygen cylinders and oxymeters, and other crucial kits, in eight searches.
The latest search was carried out on Monday, when three men, including the 41-year-old technician director of a private hospital in south Delhi’s Aya Nagar, were arrested for allegedly hoarding and black marketing oxygen and nitrogen cylinders and oxygen flowmeters, police said. “They were selling a standard oxygen cylinder for ₹50,000 and the smaller one for ₹30,000,” said DCP (south) Atul Kumar Thakur.
“The arrested persons used to purchase old cylinders from scrap dealers through auctions. We are trying to ascertain from where they had managed to refill the cylinders,” DCP Thakur said.
They were identified as Ansar Ahmed,41, and his associates Sumit Saini,33, and Mohit Kumar, 23. The arrests came after information was received through police informers.
Social media has been flooded with SOS messages from patients or their families, seeking medicines and oxygen. The officer cited above said racketeers were cashing in on their desperation. In many cases, the fraudsters took money but never delivered the items, he added.
“Our personnel are keeping a vigil on chemist shops, scrap dealers, hospital staff, dealers and distributors of medical equipment, and oxygen refilling stations. Social media monitoring is also being done,” said Delhi Police spokesperson Chinmoy Biswal.