KOLKATA: Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly Suvendu Adhikari has sought a probe by the central agencies into fake vaccination drive in the city conducted by a man impersonating as an IAS officer having "influence in the ruling party."
The BJP leader made the demand for central probe in a letter written to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
In his letter, Adhikari alleged that the man, who was arrested after his drive was busted by the police, has "influence in the ruling party".
He claimed that Debanjan Deb, the main accused, held illegal vaccination camps in Kasba, Amherst Street and Sonarpur areas under the "watch of the local administration, including police and civic authorities".
"Hundreds of people have already been inoculated in these camps. While copies of Aadhaar cards were procured from the recipients in Kasba, none of them received any certificate of vaccination."
"The big question is - were these shots really Covishield vaccines as being claimed by the accused? If so, then this raises a big question on pilferage of COVID vaccines from the government stock and this cannot happen without complicity of top civic authorities."
"If these were not COVID vaccines, then immediate investigation needs to be done," Adhikari said in the letter written on Friday.
The Kolkata Police arrested Deb (28) Wednesday for allegedly posing as an IAS officer and organising a COVID-19 vaccination camp in Kasba area, and formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by the joint police commissioner (Crime).
The SIT will investigate how the main accused held COVID-19 vaccination camps where around 2000 people were suspected to have been administered fake doses,a senior officer had said.
Actor and Trinamool Congress MP Mimi Chakraborty, who had taken COVID vaccine shot at one of the camps set up by Deb,was first to raise the alarm as she did not receive the customary SMS that is sent to people after they have taken the jab.
"Public health frauds like this in the midst of a raging global pandemic are making common people skeptic. I sincerely urge you to order a thorough investigation by concerned central agencies into this vaccination fraud and punish the guilty."
"An impartial investigation by the central agencies, undaunted by any pressure from the state's ruling party or the government, is the need of the hour to restore credibility of the entire COVID vaccination process in West Bengal," Adhikari wrote to the union health minister.
The incident triggered a political storm after purported photographs and videos of the arrested person along with several TMC leaders and ministers at various programmes came in the public domain.
PTI could not independently verify the authenticity of the photographs or videos.
Adhikari claimed that the main accused held illegal vaccination camps decorated with "trademark blue and white balloons characteristic of the TMC government events".
"While Kolkata Police has reportedly started investigating into the fraud, several incriminating photos suggestive of the accused's influence in the ruling party of West Bengal have come to the fore," the BJP leader alleged.
The TMC leadership, however, has denied any involvement in the matter.
"We are politicians and attend several programmes every day. Many people come to us and click pictures. It is not always possible to ascertain their identity. The allegations against our leaders are baseless and politically motivated," senior TMC leader and minister Firhad Hakim said.
After its defeat in the assembly polls, the BJP was looking for an issue to corner the TMC government and is quick to grab it and demanded a CBI probe to look into the matter, Hakim said.
"If just a photograph proves someone guilty, several BJP leaders should be put behind the bars for having photographed with the scamsters," senior TMC leader Tapas Ray has said.
Adhikari on Friday led a BJP delegation to Swasthya Bhawan, the state health department headquarters, and questioned officials how a person impersonating as an IAS officer has been organising vaccination camps remained off the radar of the police and the department for so long.
He had also claimed that it was a conspiracy of the TMC as the ruling party in West Bengal was trying to tarnish the BJP-led Union government image with a claim that the Centre has provided fake vaccines.
"We apprehend that the West Bengal government and the ruling party have hatched a larger conspiracy to implicate the Centre.
They are helping people with disputable identity to organise camps where fake jabs were administered to defame the Narendra Modi regime.
"If there was any adverse impact on people who were inoculated, the TMC will blame the Centre for providing fake vaccines," the BJP leader had said.
According to police officials,Deb allegedly had financially duped several people in Kolkata by impersonating as a joint commissioner of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC).
On his social media accounts, he had posted several pictures of organising medical camps and participating in government programmes.