Amid India’s battle with COVID-19, an incident of black marketing unfolded in the national capital. The New Delhi Police, on Sunday, arrested a popular businessman, Navneet Kalra, for illegally hoarding and inflating the prices of oxygen concentrators.
Kalra is the owner of Delhi’s several famous eateries and belongs to an influential family. The arrest followed after the Delhi Police received information about the black marketing of oxygen concentrators, on May 6. The concentrators are crucial medical equipment during the second wave of the pandemic.
Subsequently, the police seized approximately 524 concentrators from three restaurants owned by Kalra – Khan Chacha, Town Hall, Nege & Ju. An FIR was registered, and four people were arrested immediately during the raids while Kalra was absconding, along with his family.
On May 13, Kalra approached a Delhi Sessions Court to seek interim protection from arrest. The request was rejected given the allegations against him needed “custodial interrogation”. On May 17, Kalra moved the High Court with the same request but was rejected underlying the same reasons.
Reportedly, during the investigations, police found that Matrix Cellular Services Ltd. – an international SIM company – had allegedly bought over 7,000 machines from local vendors and Chinese companies. These were later sold in the country at “exorbitant rates” to families and patients battling COVID-19.
As per Indian Express, police sources said that Kalra had switched off his cell phone on May 5 and started using his domestic help’s phone to make calls on WhatsApp and Facebook. However, before turning off his phone, Kalra had made several calls to two IPS officers including a former New Delhi Police Commissioner. His last location was traced near the Damdama resort in Gurgaon.
The police noted that Kalra’s brother-in-law visited his farmhouse more often than he used to. As per the police sources, he visited thrice in the span of 10 days instead of once a month earlier. Perceiving this pattern, the raid was conducted and Kalra who was sheltered there was arrested by the police.
The investigation revealed that Kalra and Gagan Duggal, the owner of Matrix, worked together. They sold the equipment for Rs. 70,000, which was initially imported at a cost of Rs. 16,000 to Rs. 22,000.
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As per DCP (South Delhi) Atul Kumar Thakur, Kalra is facing charges under IPC section 420 (cheating), 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 3/7 Essential Commodities Act, and 3 Epidemic Diseases Act. “The probe has been transferred to the interstate cell of the Crime Branch. Four men, including the manager of the restaurant, were arrested. On the instance of one of the accused, 96 more oxygen concentrators were recovered from Khan Chacha restaurant and nine from Town Hall restaurant in Khan Market,” Thakur told Indian Express.
The ongoing oxygen crisis has been surging in Delhi for a couple of months. Lack of equipment, hospital beds and supply of oxygen has led to thousands of deaths in the national capital. As of Monday, Delhi alone had a total of 13.9L cases of COVID-19, with 21,506 deaths. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that the ongoing lockdown will continue till May 24.
The nation recorded 281,386 fresh infections, taking the total to 2.5 Cr as per the health ministry. The death toll has now reached 2.74L with 4,106 total deaths in the past 24 hours. Black marketing and misuse of commodities are increasing in the national capital and elsewhere in the country amid this mayhem.