A day after a vaccination drive scam was unearthed in a Kandivli housing society, police nabbed the main organiser of the drive, Mahendra Singh, late on Wednesday, while two of his associates were questioned earlier in the day. Police said they had also sent teams to record the statements of officials of the hospitals named in the certificates issued to the beneficiaries. While no case was registered on Wednesday, a First Information Report (FIR) is likely to be registered on Thursday, after Singh is questioned.
A senior police official said that Singh, who had organised the drive, had been untraceable after building residents had approached police with a complaint letter and his phone was switched off. Meanwhile, acting on the complaint letter, police teams recorded the statements of residents as well as of authorities at the hospitals mentioned in the certificates, to ascertain how their names had come up in the matter and verify if the allegations made in the complaint are true.
Police said that so far, they had recorded the statements of three hospital authorities and five society residents. While police are trying to determine from where the vaccines were procured, there is no clarity on whom Singh approached and how the drive was carried out in the name of Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Andheri. “We are trying to find out what Singh did and his statement will be crucial to ascertain if a case has to be registered,” an officer said.
“We have not registered an FIR in this case and have not arrested anybody. We have also not detained anybody. We are just investigating,” Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone 11, Vishal Thakur said.
Babasaheb Salunkhe, senior inspector, Kandivli police station, also confirmed that nobody had been detained, nor had any case been registered in connection to the matter. “We are making enquiries to get to the bottom of this and no detention or arrests have been made nor has a case has been registered. We are still verifying the complaint,” Salunkhe reiterated.
Police suspect that Singh could have organised similar drives in other locations as well. Soon after this incident came to light, a similar complaint was lodged at Borivli police station, wherein a woman claimed that a vaccination drive was carried out in a college campus earlier this month, where the beneficiaries had not received any certificates. While no case has been lodged in this instance either, Kandivli and Borivli Police are coordinating and investigating the matter. The incident of spurious vaccines likely to have been administered to 390 beneficiaries of a Kandivli society came to light when they became concerned on receiving certificates with wrong dates from the hospitals that denied having been involved in the drive. Having been told that the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Andheri was spearheading the vaccination drive, residents decided to enrol for the drive, paying Rs 1,260 for the jab each. On receiving questionable certificates, they began making enquiries with the hospitals named on the certificates, only to find out that neither Kokilaben Hospital nor the others mentioned in the certificates had conducted any such drive. Moreover, none of the 390 beneficiaries reported any of the side effects of having received Covishield, like fever, weakness or dizziness. Accordingly, the residents wrote to police, who are investigating the matter.
“If the vaccine is found to be spurious, the people who got vaccinated will have a medical emergency to deal with. Therefore, there is an urgent need to investigate the whole episode so that such fraudulent activities are not repeated at other places,” the complaint said.
BMC PROBE IN VACCINATION SCAM
Meanwhile, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) too swung into action in the case on Wednesday. “BMC has ordered an inquiry by the deputy municipal commissioner, asking him to submit a report in 48 hours. Based on the probe findings, the civic body is expected to take penal action against those people who conducted the vaccination on May 30, which cost Rs 5 lakh,” a senior BMC official told The Free Press Journal.
The BMC is now collecting the vaccination certificates received by the residents of society. These will be verified from the CoWin portal and nodal officers. “If there is any foul play, any loopholes or irregularities, the DMC-level officer will file an FIR in the matter,” said the officer. Mumbai District Guardian Minister and Minister of Animal Husbandry Aslam Shaikh said the BMC had been asked to investigate the matter and submit a report in a fortnight. Local BJP MLA Yogesh Sagar had also demanded that police conduct a probe.