Ahead of the much-anticipated announcement of the ambitious National Health Protection Scheme by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech, a clutch of fake Ayushman Bharat-NHPM websites — many of them bearing “Pradhan Mantri” or “PM” in their names — and WhatsApp forwards asking people to enrol for the scheme have sent the Health Ministry into a tizzy.
Faced with online registration options and messages for ‘enrollment’, the Ayushman Bharat secretariat is even considering police action to prevent a major embarrassment after the scheme’s launch.
There is no provision of beneficiaries enrolling for the Rs 5-lakh health insurance and assurance scheme. Beneficiaries have already been verified at the level of panchayats and the lists have been frozen. The scheme is expected to cover 10.74 crore families as per deprivations, as listed in the socio-economic caste census data.
Officials have reason to be disturbed. In 2017, a CBI inquiry had to be initiated into fraud in the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme when miscreants duped people in several states, promising them benefits under the programme against some payment.
Now, one website – http://www.pradhanmantriagreement.in – even lists “toll free Ayushman Bharat helpline numbers”. While the cellphone numbers were found either switched off or out of reach, officials fear gullible callers may get a callback and asked to pay once the scheme is announced on August 15. The website also has a link to apply online – the link leads to a Google ad page.
Others say registration link will go live once the scheme is rolled out. There is no mention of payment beneficiaries need to make.
Asking people to enrol, the WhatsApp message, with a photo of Modi, meanwhile, talks of a premium of Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,200 per family.
Ayushman Bharat CEO Indu Bhushan said: “This is a cashless scheme based on entitlement. We are not looking for any enrolment – any agency seeking to enrol, or asking for insurance or premium, amounts to fraud. This is a criminal act and we will take legal action against these people and seek public cooperation in bringing them to our notice.”
Bhushan said, “The NHPM official website is abnhpm.gov.in. There is one official helpline – 1455 – (and) any other number is fraudulent. We need to be vigilant about these malicious sites. We are planning an education campaign to protect people from these fraudsters.”
Another website – http://www.pradhanmantriyojana.in – states that the registration process will be “totally online” and there will be no need to download application form. Most websites also refer to the programme as “Modicare”, as has been done mostly by BJP functionaries since the scheme was announced in the Union Budget in February.
One website – http://www.yogiyojana.in – lists several helpline numbers and carries a complete list of schemes launched by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. There are also several other websites with variation of the scheme name such as http://www.ayushmanbharatyojana.co.in.