Health worker held in Bengal for stealing free vaccines, giving jabs for money
A health worker employed by the West Bengal government was arrested from the Sonarpur area of South 24 Parganas district on Saturday for stealing vials of the Covid-19 vaccine from government stocks and injecting people against payment of sums ranging between ₹200 and 500, officials said.
Two vials of Covishield, which is administered free by the state, were recovered from Mithun Mondal, the accused, said Vaibhav Tiwari, superintendent of police, Bauipur police district.
“Some police officers posed as consumers and nabbed the accused. The Covishield vials seized from him appear to be genuine but we have sent those for a test. The accused has named some people. We have also found some documents. A probe is on,” Tiwari told the media.
Police are trying to find out how many people bought vaccines from Mondal. It has been found that he vaccinated some people at a house in Sonarpur.
The arrest came amid a shortage of vaccines in some districts. Mondal was working as a coordinator for the vaccination programme. It is suspected that he stole the vials from a health centre in the Diamond Harbour area of South 24 Parganas. Police officers probing the case said he stole vials from unused stocks and later made entries in the registers, showing the vials as used. As a result, people he vaccinated for money received certificates.
“Frauds like these surface because of the mismatch in demand and supply,” said minister Firhad Hakim.
Accusing the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh said, “The Centre is regularly sending vaccines to Bengal. There is a crisis because TMC leaders are selecting the recipients while common people are being deprived.”
Mondal’s arrest comes a month after the Kolkata Police arrested Debanjan Deb, the imposter who posed as an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer posted at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and held at least two vaccination camps for the general public where an antibiotic was allegedly used on a few hundred people.
Deb has been charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 307 (attempt to murder). His father is a retired officer of the state excise department.
The police seized stamp papers, forged documents of various government departments from Deb’s residence. During interrogation, Deb told the police that he wrote a letter to the Serum Institute of India as well, asking for Covishield vaccines.
A 10-member special investigation team (SIT) of the Kolkata Police is probing the case.
Deb has so far confessed about two vaccination camps. One was held for students and teachers at City College North in the Bowbazar area while the other was held for local residents of Kasba in south Kolkata. Nobody received any certificate or intimation on their mobile phones.
TMC Lok Sabha MP from Jadavpur and popular actress Mimi Chakraborty blew Deb’s cover by informing the police when she felt suspicious after getting a jab at the camp in Kasba.