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How were thousands of fake Covid certificates issued during Kumbh Mela?

Last updated on: June 28, 2021 21:13 IST

The sordid details of the FIR filed against these companies for issuing fake certificates only reconfirm why the second Covid-19 wave in India came like a storm in the midst of the Kumbh Mela.
Shishir Prashant reports. 

IMAGE: Devotees take a holy dip during the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. Photograph: Reuters

The Mahakumbh Mela in Haridwar was said to be a super-spreader of the coronavirus in more than one way.

First, tens of thousands of mask-less devotees took a holy bath in a small space at Har-Ki-Pauri on the occasion of many big festivals like Baisakhi.

When these people went home, thousands of them tested Corona-positive.

But this was not the only blunder.

A new inquiry report has revealed that fake negative Covid-19 reports were issued in large numbers at the Kumbh Mela in order to meet the daily requirement of 50,000 tests under the orders of the Uttarakhand high court.

The issuance of fake certificates has now taken the shape of a scandal, which is rocking Uttarakhand ahead of the assembly elections early next year.

A first information report (FIR) has been filed against three companies -- Max Corporate Service, Nalwa Laboratories Pvt Ltd, and Dr Lalchandani Lab at Haridwar Kotwali.

These companies have denied their involvement in the matter.

"We talked to the owners of these companies and they all denied the charges," said a top official of the health department.

The sordid details of the FIR filed against these companies for issuing fake certificates only reconfirm why the second Covid-19 wave in India came like a storm in the midst of the Kumbh Mela.

By all accounts, the number of people who died in April and May exceeds the official figures.

According to a police complaint filed by Haridwar Chief Medical Officer Shambhu Kuma Jha, 3,825 people who were given negative Covid reports during the Kumbh Mela were traced to the same address in a Nepali Farm area near Haridwar.

In yet another instance, 56 people who were given the negative Covid report carried the same mobile number.

One company made 51,298 entries even after April 30, the day the Kumbh Mela ended.

The positivity rate of these samples was 0.18 per cent, which was far below Haridwar district’s 5.3 per cent during that period, said the police complaint.

"An FIR has been filed and I can’t speak much as the issue is still under investigation," said Dr Jha.

However, he, in his complaint, asked the state police to register the FIR because these companies had made 'fake entries with the intent of stealing the government’s money and harming people'.

On the basis of the police complaint, the FIR was registered promptly.

"We have registered the FIR and we will not spare anyone in this case," said Director General of Police Ashok Kumar.

The case has been registered under Sections 420 (cheating) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and also under the Disaster Management and Epidemic Acts.

As the ugly details of the scandal emerged, a rift within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party came to the fore.

Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, who is under attack from the Opposition on the issue, defended himself by saying 'the case does not pertain to my tenure'.

He, however, said strong action would be taken against the guilty.

On the other hand, previous chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat immediately rebutted the charges, saying the investigations would prove under whose tenure the tenders were issued.

He also demanded a judicial probe into the matter.

The Congress is attacking the government repeatedly.

"The government must order an inquiry by a sitting high court judge or it should resign," said Suryakant Dhasmana, the state Congress vice-president.

The fake certificates were issued despite the strong stand taken by the high court, which had pulled up the state government many times, doubting its preparedness in dealing with the large gatherings at Haridwar.

Shishir Prashant in Lucknow
Source: source image