Centre directs Bengal to submit report on fake vaccine drive
The Centre has asked the West Bengal government to file a report by Thursday in the fake Covid-19 vaccination camps busted by the Kolkata Police last week even as the Calcutta high court directed the state to file an affidavit in the matter by Friday.
“It is requested that the matter may be urgently enquired into and the factual position about the serious allegations clarified immediately and that, suitable and strict action may be taken in the matter, if necessary. It is also requested that a factual report on the matter may be sent to the ministry in the next two days,” said the letter issued by Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan to West Bengal chief secretary Hari Krishna Dwivedi on Tuesday.
The Centre referred to a letter written to Union health minister Harsh Vardhan by Suvendu Adhikari, leader of the opposition in the West Bengal assembly, seeking a probe into the fake vaccination racket by a central agency.
More than 800 people, including ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mimi Chakraborty, are suspected to have been injected with antibiotic Amikacin instead of Covid-19 vaccines at the fake vaccination camps organised in Kolkata earlier this month, according to Kolkata Police.
Debanjan Deb, 28, who impersonated as an IAS officer working as Joint Commissioner of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, allegedly organised the camps. The Kolkata Police have set up a Special Investigation Team to probe into the case and six persons, including Deb, have been arrested so far, an officer of the city police’s detective department said.
Soon after the fake vaccination racket was busted, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the state alleged that Deb shared close links with TMC leaders, including ministers, after their pictures together surfaced. TMC leaders have rubbished the charges.
“It is not possible to check the credentials of each and every person attending a public programme where anyone may click pictures,” TMC leader and state minister Firhad Hakim said.
“It was an isolated case. The state government was not associated with this. Strong actions have been taken the moment we received complaints. Health department is in touch with the victims. We would vaccinate all of them,” chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday while speaking to media at the state secretariat
Calling it a conspiracy against the state government, Banerjee added: “Did they seek any report from Uttar Pradesh where dead bodies of Covid-19 victims were dumped in the river or from Gujarat where vaccines were distributed from BJP party office? What is the proof that the fake vaccination racket busted in Bengal isn’t a conspiracy of the BJP? A conspiracy is going on to malign Bengal through central agencies.”
Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh on Wednesday replied to the CM’s allegation, by saying: “Had the racket not been exposed mistakenly and had there been a death, then the TMC would have alleged that the BJP government had sent fake vaccines. She should tackle her own state before pointing fingers at Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.”
On Wednesday, the Calcutta high court directed the state government to file a report before it by Friday on the progress of probe into the case of fake vaccination camps.
A division bench of acting chief justice Rajesh Bindal and justice Arijit Banerjee, while hearing a PIL seeking an independent probe by a central agency into the matter, questioned the government on the alleged rampant misuse of beacon-fitted vehicles in West Bengal and how Deb could pass off impersonating an IAS officer. Giving the state time till Friday to file its reply in an affidavit, the court posted the matter for hearing on that day.
TMC leader Kunal Ghosh attacked the BJP, saying the party could not digest the defeat in the recent assembly elections and was therefore resorting to “back-door politics”.
“I don’t know whether the Union health secretary asked for a report from BJP-led Uttar Pradesh government when dead bodies of Covid-19 victims were dumped in the river. Where was he when West Bengal was requesting oxygen, medicines and vaccines? The state government is doing whatever is necessary. Police have started a probe and the state health department and civic body have held camps for the victims,” he added.