How an LIC agent’s search blew lid off Kumbh Covid test scam

How an LIC agent’s search blew lid off Kumbh Covid test scam

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The mystery surrounding what experts are calling the largest Covid-testing scam in India is beginning to unravel, ToI has reported.
As per the report, a Punjab LIC agent’s investigation has blown the lid off a con act the possibility of which had first piqued people’s interest after tests at this year’s Kumbh returned suspiciously low positivity numbers.
The unravelling of the mystery began when LIC agent Vipan Mittal from Faridkot got his ‘test report’ via a text message. The report was negative, But Mittal’s reaction was more of shock than relief. His problem was that he had not even got tested for the virus.

Mittal initially thought that someone had gotten their hands on his private data and was now misusing it. So he first approached the local authorities but was turned away. After the Health department officers also showed little interest in his case, he went ahead and filed a complaint with ICMR.
The ICMR took note of Mittal’s case, but when several days passed and little action happened, he eventually filed an RTI plea to find out what the case really was.
Thereafter, things started moving and a probe found that the lab that supposedly carried out Mittal’s Covid test was located at Haridwar.
Mittal at first never thought the scam could be this huge. But after Uttarakhand’s Health authorities were roped in and a large-scale investigation was carried out, it came to light that Mittal was just one case in about a lakh of bogus reports that were produced under a massive scam.
The probe report, running into as many as 1,600 pages, puts a Haryana agency at the centre of it all. The report says the “tests” were done during the Kumbh following a court order to carry out at least 50,000 tests daily in Haridwar. Around four lakh tests had been carried out during the Kumbh on samples collected by eight agencies. All these agencies are under the lens now.
Names and addresses against which test reports were issued were found to be fake. Many of the supposedly tested Kumbh visitors ‘shared’ the same phone number. The probe also showed multiple people registered against one single-use antigen test kit. The list of sample collectors was found to have names of people who never even went to the Kumbh.
It may be recalled that the Covid positivity rate at the Kumbh venue had been found to be 2.8%, while the other Uttarakhand districts had reported 14.2% during the Mela period.
The extraordinarily minuscule positive rate during tests conducted at the Kumbh had raised widespread doubts among experts. The test reports were highly questionable but the authorities chose to turn a blind eye, ToI quoted Anoop Nautiyal, member of Social Development for Communities Foundation, as saying.
To fully unearth the scam, the Haridwar district administration has now been asked to submit an action-taken report to trace everyone involved. The number of fake tests is not yet exactly known and will be only determined after the probe wraps up, Lav Agarwal, joint secretary of union health ministry, told ToI.

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