A housing society in Mumbai’s Kandivali neighbourhood has filed a police report alleging that it was duped by people contending to represent a private hospital and organising a COVID-19 vaccination programme for its members. The residents have claimed that the vaccine provided may have been tainted.
The Hiranandani Heritage Residents Welfare Association (HHRWA) has requested an investigation into the incident.
On May 30, the residential complex organised a vaccination camp for its members. However, it was later discovered that the Co-WIN site had no record of the persons who participated, and according to a report in India Today they obtained certificates in the names of several institutions.
“If the vaccine is found to be spurious, the people who got vaccinated will have a medical emergency to deal with. Therefore, there is an urgent need to investigate the whole episode so that such fraudulent activities are not repeated at other places,” said the complaint.
The HHRWA planned the camp with the help of a man called Pandey, who pretended to be a sales agent for Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. According to the lawsuit, 390 participants received the shots during the camp for ₹1,260 per person.
“My son got himself vaccinated,” said Hitesh Patel, one of the residents of the housing society. “We paid ₹1,260 for each dosage. We did not get any notifications after receiving the vaccination. I’d like to emphasise that we were not permitted to take photographs or selfies while getting vaccinated.”
“We now feel that some unscrupulous elements have taken us for a ride,” read the complaint. They were shocked to receive vaccination certificates in the name of Nanavati Hospital, Lifeline Hospital and NESCO Covid Camp, among others, the report said.
“On contacting Nanavati Hospital, they denied any involvement and said they’re victims in the situation too,” said Neha Alshi, a resident of the complex, on Twitter. Nanavati Hospital said in a statement that it had not conducted any such vaccination camp. “We have informed the authorities and are lodging a formal complaint,” said the hospital’s spokesperson on Tuesday.
The Kokilaben Hospital also said that they never administered vaccinations to the people of the society. The HHRWA further stated that none of the participants who were vaccinated had the typical side effects such as fever or body aches.
“We were astounded to see that there were no symptoms or negative effects. We became concerned when we did not receive our certificates. We didn’t obtain the certificate for another 10-15 days,” stated Hrishabh Kamdar, another society member.
“There are doubts about whether we were given Covishield or was it just glucose or expired/waste vaccine,” said Alshi in her tweets.
According to the lawsuit, Sanjay Gupta was the camp coordinator, while Mahendra Singh who collected money from the residents did not provide records for vaccination payments. He had requested that the association pay Mahendra Singh. Yogesh Sagar, a local BJP MLA stated that the locals approached him after suspecting a scam. “Police should undertake a comprehensive investigation since such scams endanger people’s lives,” added Sagar. The police are questioning Pandey and Gupta, two of the three suspects. Singh’s location remains unknown.
Meanwhile, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has made signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between private vaccine providers and housing societies necessary starting this week, if such camps are to be held. According to the agreement proposed, all pertinent information should be included. The BMC has confirmed that 41,11,880 individuals have received the vaccination in Mumbai so far, with 8,24,428 receiving both doses.
Another such “fake case” came into notice a few weeks ago where the Delhi Police Cyber Cell detained two individuals for allegedly establishing a bogus COVID vaccination registration website to target individuals eager for an open spot, and duping hundreds of a total of ₹40 lakh.
According to authorities, the suspects – Shekhar Periyar and Ashok Singh – built a website identical to the government’s Co-WIN portal and charged each user between ₹4,000 and ₹6,000. They also gave them forged registration receipts.
The Delhi Police have so far shut at least five such fake websites and portals, and they are on the lookout for more suspects engaged in the creation of similar websites and portals.
The Cyber Cell registered a report regarding a bogus website – https://mohfw[.]xyz/ – that had the same layout, colours, and logo as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s original Co-WIN website.
“The fake website had the same links and documents as the original. The victims thought they were accessing the original or an alternative provided by the government. They were then directed to two payment links, which charged them ₹4,000 to ₹6,000,” said the officer.
Following the filing of a case, the police promptly banned the website with the assistance of internet service providers.