PUNE: The Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation (AMC) in Maharashtra issued a letter to a local journalist of a Marathi daily, asking him to furnish within three days the information and evidence related to his "question-cum-allegation" that COVID-19 vaccine doses from the civic body-run vaccination centres were being sold outside.
However, as the letter, which was issued on Sunday, kicked up a row, the civic body withdrew it late on Wednesday evening, and also apologised saying it was sent "inadvertently".
According to the letter sent by the AMC's health department, the journalist from Saamana', Shiv Sena's mouthpiece, had raised the issue during the press conference held by district guardian minister Hasan Mushrif on August 15.
The journalist said the letter was actually a "notice", and claimed that he had not asked that question during the press conference.
"During the press conference, you raised a question-cum-allegation about COVID-19 vaccines from the civic-body run vaccination centres being sold outside. Raising the issue in the press conference in the presence of the guardian minister instead of doing so at the administrative level is not appropriate," the letter addressed to the journalist by AMC's health officer Dr Satish Rajurkar said.
Since the matter (question raised by the journalist) is akin to an "allegation", it brings down the morale and energy of staff working towards controlling the COVID-19, it added.
"Since, the municipal commissioner has given directions to conduct a detailed inquiry, you are requested to provide information and evidence about the, where the alleged incident (of vaccines being sold outside) had taken place and who are the staff members involved in it, in three days," the letter further said.
Talking to PTI, Rajurkar said that it could not be called a notice, as it was a simple letter seeking information about the issue of alleged malpractice as raised by the journalist during the press conference.
"When this question was raised, the commissioner of AMC assured action and sought information. Accordingly we have sent him a letter asking us to provide the details. Generally, journalists come to know about several things first. So if the information is shared with us, we can take appropriate action," he said.
The journalist said that although the civic administration was terming it as a letter, it was actually a notice as they have sought information within three days.
"A delegation of reporters met the district collector today and submitted a letter regarding this notice," he said.
About his query, he said that during the press conference, he had only sought information about the number of doses being given to Ahmednagar.
"When I asked this question about the number of doses being made available for the district, some other reporter jointly raised this question of vaccine being sold out. I did not ask that question. Other reporters also raised some other questions simultaneously, but since I had raised the first question, they sent me the notice," he claimed.
Journalists had the right to ask questions, while the administration had a right to deny it or answer it, he added.
Meanwhile, the AMC on Wednesday retracted the letter issued to the journalist.
In a statement, Rajurkar said, "The letter was issued inadvertently and it has been retracted. I personally apologize for the same."