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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Testing gaps: Bihar to probe, Jharkhand calls for data check

Health Minister Mangal Pandey said "legal action will be taken against those found responsible for the anomalies".

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
Updated: February 12, 2021 11:55:09 am
Bihar Covid testing data, Bihar express investigation, Covid testing data investigation, Bihar PHC, Primary Health Centres, Bihar coronavirus cases, Patna news, Bihar news, Indian express newsBihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (File Photo)

THE BIHAR government Thursday ordered an inquiry into the findings of the investigation by The Indian Express, which tracked 885 entries in Covid testing records from three districts and found several cases of fudged mobile numbers, fake names and dodgy details. The Opposition RJD said it will raise the issue in Parliament Friday.

Health Minister Mangal Pandey said “legal action will be taken against those found responsible for the anomalies”. Bihar’s Principal Secretary (Health) Pratyaya Amrit called a meeting of the civil surgeons in charge of Jamui and Sheikhpura “to discuss course correction”. The Indian Express investigation focused on these two districts, and Patna.

Taking note of the findings, meanwhile, neighbouring Jharkhand issued a letter to all Deputy Commissioners in the state for “validation and audit” of testing data. The order directed all district-level teams to “randomly verify the identity of the patient tested for COVID-19 by matching key fields” such as mobile numbers and addresses.

In Patna, Health Minister Pandey told reporters: “I have asked the Principal Secretary, Health, to look into every finding being reported and take legal action if anyone is found responsible… We have just started an internal probe. The Health Department is looking into all aspects”.

Asked about the meeting called by the Principal Secretary, a Health Department official said: “Civil surgeons have been asked to submit reports on each anomaly detected and identify officials responsible.”

No takers for Covid tests at the PHC in Barhat, Jamui district. Records show one mobile number for 26 who got RT-PCR tests. (Photo: Santosh Singh)

Taking on the Bihar government, Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Tejashwi Yadav posted on Twitter that Bihar has the “worst testing statistics”. He wrote that the Opposition “repeatedly requested” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to ramp up testing. But “he responded by transferring 3 health secretaries (who didn’t fudge data),” Yadav alleged.

The RJD leader also accused Nitish of “ultimately faking the numbers through his trusted” officials to “mint money” and sought a reply from the Chief Minister. “By fudging data, they have siphoned off billions of a poor state like Bihar,” he alleged.

RJD Rajya Sabha MP and national spokesperson Manoj Kumar Jha told The Indian Express: “We have already put up the matter for Zero Hour and will be taking this up as a serious issue in Parliament on Friday.”

Describing the findings as “startling”, Bihar Congress spokesperson Rajesh Rathore asked the government to “order a high-level probe”.

In Jharkhand, the order issued by the Health, Medical Education and Family Welfare Department ordered district level-teams to analyse the “gap between sample collection, testing and generation of results”, “pendency in data updation on ICMR portal” and “ensure regular updation”. It asked the teams to “share the findings at the earliest”.

The order referred to The Indian Express investigation and said that “some irregularities and issues have been alleged regarding COVID-19 testing data in another state”.

State Surveillance Officer Rakesh Dayal said: “All DCs have been asked to conduct an independent data audit at the district level for re-verification of authenticity and validity of COVID-19 testing data.” —(With Abhishek Angad in Ranchi)

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