July 1, 2021 4:05:16 am
A day after the Union Health Ministry asked the West Bengal government to inquire into instances of Covid-19 vaccination camps being allegedly organised by unauthorised people in Kolkata and submit a report by Thursday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of attempting to defame the state administration.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to Chief Secretary Hari Krishna Dwivedi on Tuesday, saying the ministry’s attention was drawn to the matter by the state’s Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari in a letter dated June 25. The BJP leader wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan after the Kolkata Police arrested a man for posing as an IAS officer and organising a fake Covid vaccination camp in the city’s Kasba area. Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mimi Chakraborty was among those who received shots at the camp.
In his letter, Bhushan pointed out that none of those who received shots at these camps, most notably those at the Kasba camp, received vaccination certificates generated from the CoWIN website.
“Non-issuance of these certificates, therefore, does lead to an apprehension of ‘fake’ vaccination camps and also raises doubts on contents of injections delivered in such camps. Such instances, if not promptly enquired into and suitably addressed, may also lead to the possibility of their recurrence. It is requested that the matter may be urgently enquired into and the factual position about the serious allegations raised in the letter referred to above, clarified immediately and that, suitable and strict action may be taken in the matter, if necessary. It is also requested that a factual report on the matter may be sent to this ministry in the next two days,” Bhushan added.
Lashing out at the Centre and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Mamata Banerjee said, “The issue of the dubious vaccination camps is an isolated case. The West Bengal government is not associated with them. We are already taking strong action. Then also every day there is a discussion about West Bengal on national TV. The BJP is dictating TV channels and they are spreading misinformation. They want to defame us. It’s a planted story from the Home Minister’s office, I am sure about it.”
She added, “In Gujarat, vaccines were given through BJP offices. Then, no ministry had written a single letter. In the case of West Bengal, the Central government is purposefully trying to defame us by sending such letters.”
In his letter to Harsh Vardhan, Adhikari had referred to the fake vaccination racket unearthed in Kolkata, and claimed that there were several incriminating photographs that suggested there were links between the TMC and Debanjan Deb, the 28-year-old suspected mastermind of the racket who has been arrested for organising the Kasba camp and for posing as an IAS officer. The police have also arrested five others.
“While copies of Aadhaar cards were procured from the recipients in Kasba, none of them received any certificate of vaccination. All these happened under the watch of local administration including police and civic authorities. The big question is — Were these shots really Covishield vaccines as being claimed by the accused? If so, then this raises a big question on pilferage of COVID vaccines from government stock and this cannot happen without the complicity of top civic authorities.”
He added, “If these were not Covid vaccines, then immediate investigation needs to be done as to what was being administered at such a large scale? Whether they were any toxic drugs or measles vaccines or just plain water needs to be found out.”
Adhikari also claimed that while states such as Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat were “scaling new records daily towards vaccination” West Bengal was lagging behind because of the state government’s lack of enthusiasm.
He added, “In certain places, political affiliation is also being looked into by ruling party before allowing the vaccines to be administered to eligible priority population even. Vaccination coupons are also being reportedly issued by the ruling party like a voter slip…”
On Wednesday, Banerjee, who also holds the health portfolio, dismissed the allegation and claimed states smaller than Bengal had been given more vaccine doses. “Even states smaller than West Bengal are getting more vaccines. I do not have any objection to that but why will the Centre not provide vaccines to our state and continue to defame us? We had asked for three crore vaccines long back but have not received them. We got 1.99 crore vaccine doses and we have administered 1.9 crore doses. Today, we don’t have vaccines, so we are giving only second doses in Kolkata,” she said.
The TMC chief added, “We are vaccinating at least 3-4 lakh people every day. But if we do not have the vaccines under my control, what will we do? I am not allowed to purchase vaccines and you [Centre] are also not providing them to us.”
The TMC chief denied her party’s involvement in the fake vaccination racket and said there was no proof that the BJP was not involved in organising them. Banerjee said photos of Debanjan Deb and BJP leaders might also exist. “And where is the proof that the BJP is not behind this? The BJP keeps photographs of TMC [leaders]. One day they will surely come out. Whoever is behind such activities, irrespective of the person’s political affiliation, will be dealt with strictly.”
The CM said inoculating people with fake vaccines was worse than a terrorist act. “The injections which were used [in fake camps] were antibiotics and not Covid vaccines. We hope that nothing bad will happen to those who got it. The health department is monitoring their health condition.”
With PTI inputs
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