The Uttarakhan government in Northern India has recently ordered its Haridwar district administration to file a First Information Report (FIR) against private labs in the area for allegedly conducting fake Covid-19 tests in the state between 1 and 30 April 2021. As reported by The Wire India, this period saw a massive increase in Covid-19 tests due to Kumbh Mela, a major pilgrimage and festival in Hinduism held once approximately every 12 years.
Based on preliminary investigations conducted by the Chief Controlling Officer (CCO) of Covid-19 cases Abhishek Tripathi found that as many as 100,000 fake tests had been administered by 22 private labs appointed by the state government. These private labs were mainly from Delhi and Haryana.
Uttarakhand government spokesperson, Subodh Uniyal commented,
“Uttarakhand government has ordered the Haridwar district administration to register FIR in Covid testing scam during Mahakumbh. An order issued to file a case against labs from Delhi and Haryana, which conducted testing at five places in Haridwar during Kumbh Mela.”
It has been found that these private labs have been issuing fake Covid-19 test reports in the name of random people on the basis of their identity cards and phone numbers. The whole scheme came to light after a devotee who attended Mahakumbh received an SMS stating that his sample has been collected. He then received a Covid-19 negative report despite not having his sample collected or even having his test done. The man subsequently lodged a complaint with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Following further investigation, it is found that the private labs did these fake negative tests in order to meet the daily Covid-19 testing target of 50,000 tests set by the Uttarakhand High Court.
The true extent of this scam is yet to be known but it may amount to more than 400,000 based on one report.
Following the issue, the state government has suspended all payments to private labs which had been assigned with conducting Covid-19 RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests during the Kumbh celebration.
Around 7 million devotees are believed to have participated in the mass religious gathering despite the surge in Covid-19 cases in India during that period. Let’s hope that these fake tests would not contribute to a further spike of Covid-19 cases in India.