Debanjan Deb, the prime accused in the fake vaccination racket in Kolkata, is likely to be charged with attempt to murder under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code. The Kolkata Police has filed an application in court, seeking its nod to add Section 307 to the charges slapped against him.
Even as Leader of Opposition and BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari on Saturday wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, seeking a central probe into the expose, the state government sent a communique to all district magistrates saying, “All the Covid vaccination centres are either run by the government or by private hospitals (that are) specifically permitted. These centres should have a valid CVC number and should be compulsorily using Cowin software for vaccination. The vaccines have a batch number and date of expiry. The veracity of the same can be done from eVin software.”
It further stated, “Please alert all your health set-ups and municipalities to ensure that vaccination centres run by the government or private hospitals are duly authorised and are run as per protocol.”
It said the health secretary is in the process of issuing a detailed advisory in this regard.
Police said instead of clinically-approved Covid vaccines, unwitting people who received jabs at Debanjan’s camps, were administered shots of Amikacin, an antibiotic used to treat serious bacterial infections such as Meningitis, without enquiring whether they were allergic to any particular an antibiotic as it could even prove fatal.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself is believed to have instructed the Kolkata Police commissioner to add the attempt to murder charge against the prime accused. She is also believed to have told the police chief that no one associated with the vaccine fraud should be spared.
Seeking to tie the ruling party to the fraud, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “The Trinamool has now started a vaccine syndicate. Who knows where else such fraudsters are running their rackets? It could be happening elsewhere in the state as well.”
Meanwhile, three more associates of Debanjan were arrested on Saturday, a senior officer of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) said. Two of them were signatories of the bank account that was created in the name of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) by the accused.
The third person, who was on the payroll of Deb, had actively taken part in the camps where several people were ‘inoculated’ with spurious vaccines, he said. “One of them is a resident of Salt Lake, while another is from Barasat. Both were called for questioning before they were arrested,” the officer said.
The third person, a resident of Taltala, was arrested after police found him to be “very active” in helping organise the camps, he said.
The arrests came on a day three more cases were registered against Debanjan at the Kasba police station, the officer said.
“A private firm which claimed to have given him about Rs 1.2 lakh to get around 172 employees inoculated lodged a complaint at the Kasba police station. Another complaint was lodged by a contractor who claimed to have paid him Rs 90 lakh to get the tender for the construction of a stadium,” he said, adding, “The third complaint was filed by a pharma company that paid him Rs 4 lakh to get a tender,” he added.
Even as the scam continued to unravel, an advocate of Calcutta High Court filed a PIL seeking a CBI probe in the case.
Police have also filed three additional cases against the fraudster for cheating people of money amounting to almost Rs 1 crore.
One private firm gave him about 1.2 lakh to get 172 employees vaccinated, while a pharma company paid ? 4 lakh after he promised to get a tender for hand sanitizers awarded to it, police said, adding that in another case, a contractor was cheated of ? 90 lakh that he paid Debanjan for the construction of a stadium.
The prime accused has told police that he started posing as an IAS officer to please his parents. Son of a retired senior excise officer, Debanjan failed to crack the IAS exams in 2017 but lied to his parents about it, officials said.
Also posing as a social worker and documentary filmmaker, he built contacts in the state’s Information and Cultural Affairs Department and the Municipal Corporation.
He was arrested on Wednesday for posing as an IAS officer and organising a vaccination camp in the Kasba area where actor and Trinamool Congress MP Mimi Chakraborty also got her jab. Chakraborty said she became suspicious about the camp as she did not receive the customary SMS that is sent to people after they are administered a dose, and informed the police.