It is the largest religious human gathering in the world, the Kumbh Mela was all over the news across the globe when in the middle of a raging pandemic, perhaps the worst in the world, viewers were astonished to see such a large gathering of people.
The grand religious festival, which saw lakhs of devotees congregating in a pandemic year, was held from April 1 to 30 in an area spread across parts of Haridwar, Dehradun, Tehri and Pauri districts. India was meanwhile reporting the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.
‘Maa Ganga’s Blessings in Flow, There Should Be No Corona’, Uttarakhand CM, Tirath Singh Rawat proudly proclaimed while being questioned about the gathering at Kumbh during the worsening Covid crisis in the country. “People are being checked at the border points before being allowed to enter Haridwar and attend the Mela. “There are also arrangements for the random testing of people, the Uttarakhand CM further added.
However, now it is reported that after a private agency engaged by the Uttarakhand government to conduct COVID-19 tests during the Kumbh Mela issued at least 1 lakh fake reports, according to a detailed probe.
The Uttarakhand government has ordered an investigation into allegations that fake Covid-19 test reports were issued by a private laboratory roped in for conducting random tests during the Kumbh Mela, with other labs, too, likely to come under the scanner.
The Haridwar district administration recently ordered an investigation into allegations that fake COVID-19 test reports were issued by private laboratories tasked to conduct tests during the religious gathering.
The Kumbh, one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, was held in the state from 1 to 30 April. The grand religious congregation saw a gathering of lakhs of devotees amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The probe has revealed many irregularities during Kumbh Mela
The issue of fake reports surfaced when the ICMR flagged the case of a Punjab resident with a senior Health Department officer in Uttarakhand. Sources said this person, who was in Punjab during the Kumbh period, received an SMS that his sample had been collected for a Covid-19 test.
He soon reported the matter to ICMR through email alleging that his Aadhaar and mobile number had been misused for a fake test.
The probe that followed was conducted by a committee headed by Chief Development Officer Saurabh Gaharwar, who found several violations in the test reports as a single phone number was used to register over 50 people and one antigen test kit was shown to have tested 700 samples.
Around 200 sample collectors registered with the agency turned out to be students and data entry operators or residents of Rajasthan, who had never been to Haridwar. A sample collector has to be physically present to collect samples.
Fake COVID reports in name of random people
The detailed investigation was ordered after preliminary investigations revealed that many private labs roped in by the district health department issued fake COVID test reports in the name of random people on the basis of their identity cards and phone numbers.
The labs allegedly issued fake reports to reach the daily testing quota of 50,000 tests set by the Uttarakhand High Court during the Kumbh.
As many as 22 private labs and nine agencies were assigned the responsibility of conducting tests —RT-PCR and rapid antigen — during the festival by the district health department.
Release of payment to all labs hired for the purpose has been put on hold for the time being due to the ongoing investigation.