In Haridwar Test Probe, 8-Member Team Calls 98,000 Phone Numbers | Latest India News
118,000 rapid Covid-19 antigen tests. 98,000 different telephone numbers used to register patients in two laboratories. Only eight investigators to track down the people behind the numbers.
That’s the scale of the task before officials investigating allegations of false mass testing during the Mahakumbh in April, prompting each of the eight members of the district administration team to dial around 450 numbers a day. . Over the past week, the team called nearly 3,500 numbers a day, for a total of about 25,000, just a quarter of the target.
Haridwar District Magistrate C Ravishankar said he ordered the gigantic task after allegations that the phone numbers registered for Covid-19 tests belonged to people who had never visited Haridwar or had never visited Haridwar. had not been tested.
“A week after the start of this investigation, I am convinced that irregularities have occurred in the testing process. This process of calling every phone number and searching for their answer will help establish the crime and its extent, ”Ravishankar said. “In one week, we have so far managed to dial 25,000 phone numbers and received a multitude of varied responses,” he added.
The district administration investigation is one of three investigations into accusations that two private laboratories – Delhi-based Lalchandani Labs and Hisar-based Nalwa Labs – performed around 100,000 false tests during the sacred event. A third private agency based in Noida, Max Corporate Services, outsourced the testing. The allegations were triggered 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. All three companies were convicted by the police under the Indian Penal Code, the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Disease Act.
About 9.1 million people have taken the sacred plunge into the Ganges, coinciding with a devastating rise in coronavirus infections. The mela was halted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to clairvoyants on April 17, but by then officials in many states in northern India had found infections in people who were had traveled to Haridwar.
The DM said the survey process involves dialing each number and asking a series of questions of the person on the other end of the phone. If a respondent confirms they were in the mela and been tested, they are asked follow-up questions to confirm that the test was genuine.
But many respond to officials saying they had nothing to do with mela or Covid-19 testing, but have received text messages about alleged tests. “These are suspicious cases, which could be examples of false tests or errors in scoring numbers,” Ravishankar said.
In many cases, the same number is mentioned against multiple tests. “There are quite a few cases like this. In many cases, a phone number was mentioned against four-five tests. It could also be because they all belonged to one family or group, ”Ravishankar said.
But one of those cases was that of Indore-based entrepreneur Kamal Patel, whose number was mentioned against 56 tests. “I have already received over a dozen calls from health officials,” Patel said.
What has complicated the probe is that a lot of phone numbers are either out of service, out of range, or just turned off. “Then there are people who don’t want to talk to us or who just don’t understand our language or what we’re transmitting,” Ravishankar said.
When the investigation began a week ago, the district administration set a deadline of 15 days. “But the process of calling each number, many of them multiple times, means it will take a lot longer,” Ravishankar said.
In addition to making these calls, the district administration also sends notices to laboratories and government officials to join the investigation.
A parallel investigation by the Haridwar Police Special Investigation Team questions laboratory officials and the mela administration. “Our investigation is at a preliminary stage, but it mainly consists of inspecting documents and questioning those responsible,” said Senthil Avoodai Krishnaraj, Chief Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Haridwar.
A third probe is that of the Kumbh mela health service. “Appropriate measures will be taken against anyone implicated in irregularities,” said Harbeer Singh, additional mela officer.