A day after the Centre sought a report from the West Bengal government on dubious COVID-19 vaccination camps, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said that the state government was not associated with them and wondered if the BJP had any hand in organising those camps. To defame West Bengal, the BJP-led government at the Centre is using some agencies to blow small things out of proportion, Banerjee alleged.
The Union Health Ministry has asked the West Bengal government to inquire into instances of COVID-19 vaccination camps being organised allegedly by unauthorised people in some areas of Kolkata and submit a report in the next two days. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote the letter to Chief Secretary Hari Krishna Dwivedi on Tuesday after the ministry’s attention was drawn to the matter by Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP.
“The issue of the dubious vaccination camps is an isolated case. The West Bengal government is not associated with them. We took prompt action the moment we received complaints,” Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat. Several persons, including the mastermind who was masquerading as an IAS officer, were recently arrested for organising dubious camps in Kolkata where people were administered fake vaccine doses.
Apparently referring to the Health Ministry’s letter to her government, Banerjee claimed that such communications were not sent when vaccine doses were administered in party offices of the BJP in Gujarat. “In Gujarat, vaccines were administered in BJP party offices. How many letters have been sent by the Health Ministry to them? How many investigations were conducted? When a state is doing well, they are disturbing it,” she said.
Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress supremo, expressed doubt whether or not the BJP was involved with organising the fake vaccination camps in Kolkata. “And where is the proof that the BJP is not behind this? The BJP keeps photographs of TMC (leaders),” she said.
The BJP had circulated photographs of Debanjan Deb, the prime accused in the dubious vaccination camps case, with TMC leaders. Banerjee said that no inference can be made on the basis of photographs as they can be edited “and such photographs can be used in doing business”.
She said that there could be photographs of Deb with leaders of the BJP and other political parties. “One day they will surely come out. Whoever is behind such activities, irrespective of the persons political affiliation, will be dealt with strictly,” Banerjee said.
Inoculating people with fake vaccines is worse than a terrorist act, she said. “The injections which were pushed (in fake camps) were antibiotics and not Covid vaccines. We hope that nothing bad will happen to those who got it. The health department is monitoring their health condition and we will vaccinate them when doctors allow it. It’s the state government’s responsibility,” she said.
The chief minister also accused the Union Health Ministry of interfering in the state’s businesses. Banerjee wondered what measures the central government takes when fake videos related to violence surface.
There were allegations that after the election results were announced in West Bengal last month, a number of videos containing visuals of violence that took place elsewhere were passed off as those happened in the state. “Only when anyone posts tweets against any BJP leader, then you (central government) take action by lodging FIRs and making arrests. Other than that, you hardly do anything,” she said.
It was pointed out that in some of the dubious camps, and notably in Kasba locality of the Kolkata Municipal area, none of the beneficiaries has received any vaccination certificates generated from Co-WIN, giving rise to apprehensions about the genuineness of these vaccination camps, the Union health secretary said in his letter. He said as per the guidelines, all vaccination sessions for COVID-19 have to be organised through the Co-WIN portal and all vaccinations have to be recorded on Co-WIN too.
In his letter to the Union Health Ministry, BJP leader Adhikari urged it to order a thorough investigation by central agencies into this vaccination fraud and punish the guilty. Meanwhile, Banerjee condemned the assault of women in Jadavpur area of Kolkata by personnel of the central forces on Tuesday during the visit of an NHRC-formed committee to look into alleged human rights violations during post-poll violence.
“What happened in Jadavpur? Why have the central forces beaten the women there? Nothing happened there. I have great respect for an institution but they must not act as BJP party members. That is my worry,” she said. Vice-chairman of National Commission for Minorities Ateef Rasheed, a member of the panel, had claimed that he and other members of a team were attacked by some hooligans during a fact-finding visit to Jadavpur area.
A senior Kolkata Police official said that some people had raised slogans at Jadavpur but they were removed from the spot. Rasheed claimed that local police personnel were not to be seen when the incident took place, while the TMC alleged that security personnel assaulted agitators including women.