Haridwar: A detailed investigation into the COVID-19 reports submitted during the Kumbh Mela this year, revealed that at least 1 lakh test reports were forged by a private agency and were fake.
Just days after a preliminary probe by the Uttarakhand health department suggested that many of the four lakh COVID-19 test results issued during the Kumbh festival in Haridwar were fake, a detailed investigation running into 1,600 pages and accessed by Times Of India has found that at least 1 lakh test reports were forged by a private agency.
Reportedly, in one of the cases, a single phone number was used to register over 50 people while one antigen test kit (which has an exclusive number and is meant for single use) had tested 700 samples.
“Addresses and names were fictional. Almost 530 samples were taken from ‘House Number 5’ in Haridwar. Is it possible for a house to have over 500 residents? Bizarre addresses have been given — House number 56 Aligarh, House number 76 Mumbai,” an official who is part of the investigation told TOI.
Phone numbers were fake as well and people in Kanpur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and 18 other locations shared the same phone number, he added. The agency was supposed to submit these collected samples to two private labs, which are also under investigation, said Kumbh Mela health officer Dr Arjun Singh.
According to health secretary Amit Negi, the investigation report has been forwarded to the Haridwar DM. “Several irregularities have been found. We will take action after receiving a detailed report from the DM in 15 days,” said Negi.
Haridwar district magistrate C Ravishankar said he was investigating the matter and pending payment of all agencies has been put on hold until further notice.
“A sample collector has to be physically present to collect samples. When we contacted the sample collectors registered with the agency, we found 50 per cent of them were residents of Rajasthan, many were students or data entry operators,” said an official.
However, officials claimed that this was “just the tip of the iceberg” since eight more sample collection agencies were tasked to conduct tests by the state government after the high court directed Uttarakhand to carry out at least 50,000 tests daily during Kumbh.