Man arrested for operating Covid-19 jab camp posing as IAS officer
A man who allegedly impersonated an IAS officer attached to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and organised several “Covid vaccination camps” over the past fortnight without the health department’s approval was arrested on Tuesday.
Jadavpur MP Mimi Chakraborty was among the 200 who took shots at a camp organised by the accused, identified as Debanjan Deb, 28, in Kasba on Tuesday.
Police are trying to find out whether the shots administered at the camps organised by Deb were of Covid vaccines.
None of those who got “inoculated” at the camp on Tuesday got a certificate or any acknowledgement from the government, which has raised suspicion about the authenticity of the shots, officers said.
An officer who has examined the “vaccine vials” said there was no mention of manufacture or expiry dates on some of them.
Deb has purportedly come up with multiple versions about the source of the doses. He is said to have told the police that he procured a part of the doses from someone in the state health department and the rest from the Bagree market, a wholesale hub in Burrabazar.
Deputy commissioner (south suburban division) Rashid Munir Khan said samples of the liquid that was administered on Tuesday had been sent for tests.
The chairperson of the CMC’s board of administrators, Firhad Hakim, said the camp organised by Deb did not have the mandatory clearance of the state health department.
“It (the camp) did not have any clearance from the health department. The corporation was also not aware of anything like this,” Hakim said.
According to the government rule, if a private organisation wants to hold a vaccination camp, it can contact the local municipal body or tie up with a private hospital that is licensed to administer vaccines, a health department official said.
“The organisation has to fill in a form mentioning details of the venue…. The form is sent to the health department. The CoWIN registration details of the aspirants also have to be shared beforehand, based on which the municipal body or the private hospital carries vaccines to the spot,” the official said.
Deb is believed to have conducted several camps and the shots were given for free. At the same Kasba venue, a camp was conducted on June 10 and 11.
Deb, who allegedly org-anised the camps under the banner of his NGO, had invited MP Mimi Chakraborty on Tuesday.
“A person who had introduced himself as an IAS officer invited me to a camp where transgenders and physically challenged people would be vaccinated. I agreed to attend to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. In fact I took the shot myself. When I asked for the certificate, I was told that I would receive it in a few days. I got suspicious and alerted the police,” said actor-MP Chakraborty.
The police said they had come across people who claimed Deb had arranged the Russian-made Covid vaccine, Sputnik V, at one of the camps.
Hakim said the CMC had sought from the police a list of all people who had got shots at the camps organised by Deb. CMC officials will visit their homes to check on them.
A vehicle with a blue beacon and the national emblem has been seized from Deb’s possession.
Deb is said to have told the police that he has a master’s in genetics and was posing as an IAS officer to “please” his father, who was a deputy excise collector and wanted his son to be a bureaucrat.
The police suspect Deb used to organise the “vaccination camps” to catch potential targets for other frauds. “He runs a full-fledged office with 12 to 15 employees and pays them salaries of up to Rs 35,000. Without any income it is impossible to maintain so many staff,” said an officer of Kasba police station.
Hakim said he had requested the state health department to start an online portal where private bodies willing to organise Covid vaccination camps will have to register.
“The information should be available to the local civic body and the police to prevent recurrence of anything like this,” Hakim said.