West Bengal, which was already reeling under the terror of the ghastly post poll violence, the covid-19 second wave scare and the impact of the recent spate of natural calamities that hit the state, viz. The ‘YAAS’ cyclone and flash floods, woke up to another horrifying incident, that of fake Covid vaccines being injected into unsuspecting residents.
The fake vaccine racket was busted last Tuesday when TMC MP from Jadavpur and Bengali film actress, Mimi Chakraborty received an invite to grace a vaccination camp organized at Kasba in South Kolkata, meant for transgenders and differently abled individuals. She was requested to take a jab herself to encourage the others present in the camp to vaccinate themselves fearlessly. Chakraborty grew suspicious when she neither received the customary SMS nor the certificate after receiving the vaccination. On enquiry about the certificate, she was told that she will receive it in 3-4 days time, which made her suspicious and she immediately stopped the camp.
The organizer of the camp, 28 year old Debanjan Deb was arrested after Chakraborty complained to the police about the irregularities she spotted in the camp. Shockingly, the fake racket kingpin, Debanjan Deb had passed himself off as a Joint Municipal Commissioner and was using KMC letterheads for the camp. Investigations revealed that he was seen travelling in vehicles with the traditional blue light, meant for Govt. Officials, though in reality, he was not an IAS. While the netizens mocked him as a ‘civic IAS’ in line with the West Bengal govt’s Civic Police scheme, where they had employed civilians, wearing green coloured uniforms, to assist the traffic police on Kolkata roads, a probe into Deb’s background revealed that he had enrolled for various course after college but eventually dropped out of all.
What caught the attention of the primary opposition party in Bengal, the BJP, as well as that of the sensible populace here is Deb’s towering presence in various occasions in the company of different TMC leaders. A TV9 Bangla, news report revealed that his name was inscribed on a plaque at the bottom of a bust of Gurudeb Rabindranath Thakur, which was inaugurated in February this year at Taltala, Central Kolkata in presence of several TMC leaders like MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, his wife and MLA, Naina Bandopadhyay, MLA Tapas Roy, Ex Mayor and current Administrative Head of KMC, Jb. Firhad Hakim and his Deputy, Atin Ghosh. The plaque clearly mentioned him as the Jt. Commissioner, Govt. Of West Bengal. Recently an futile attempt has been made to blacken Deb’s name from the plaque. The ex Deputy Mayor, KMC and TMC ML, Atin Ghosh has given a face saving statement that the plaque was not installed with KMC’s permission. But that again leaves one with a question as to why did KMC, then, allow this plaque to remain in place which also bears the names of several other TMC leaders.
The BJP has been extremely vocal on the issue since the same came to light. BJP MP from Bankura, Dr. Subhas Sarkar was one of the first to cry foul regarding the nexus between the imposter, Debanjan Deb and the TMC leaders with whom he has been photographed on numerous occasions – Firhad Hakim, MLA from Rashbehari, Debasish Kumar, the ex President of IMA and current Rajya Sabha MP, Dr. Santanu Sen, minister and veteran leader, Subrata Mukherjee. While Jb. Hakim and Dr. Sen denied having any connection with Deb stating that they, being public figures, often get photographed with random people whom they are not acquainted with. However, Deb being photographed with so many of the TMC leaders and on different occasions provide ample scope to suspect his proximity with the ruling dispensation of Bengal.
A pertinent question which the common man on the streets have been asking since the revelation of Debanjan Deb’s fake vaccination racket is how was he never spotted and caught after posing as an IAS and a West Bengal govt official for so long. Doesn’t this lay the loopholes in the administration thread bare? Mr. Tathagata Roy, BJP leader and Ex Governor of Tripura & Meghalaya tweeted that how could the West Bengal Govt allow the said fake vaccination camp to continue operating when the same govt had stopped a valid blood donation camp organized by the BJP last Wednesday on the occasion of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s Balidaan Divas. (https://twitter.com/tathagata2/status/1408266255778213896?s=19)
While matter is being investigated by thr local police, demand for a CBI enquiry into the extremely serious case of forgery, which might have put human lives at stake, have arisen from the BJP ranks, as BJP MP, Saumitra Khan has made a demand for the same.
As the investigation reports keep coming to the fore, more and more alarming details are being unearthed. The most gruesome fact is that Deb used a medicine called Amikasin, instead of Covaxin to vaccinate those who checked into his ‘camp’. Amikasin is an antibiotic used for treating joint infections, intra-abdominal infections, meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis and urinary tract infections. During a Press Conference held today, BJP leader and radio oncologist, Dr. Indranil Khan mentioned that injecting Amikasin indiscriminately into people could prove to be fatal if they suffer from any kidney related disease. Given that the camp was in operating for the last 10 days till it was busted, the number of people who were injected with Amikasin and the number who may be adversely affected due to it is a major cause of worry now.
On interrogation by the police, Deb confessed that he had procured the ‘vaccines’ from Bagri market, Kolkata’s biggest wholesale market. Though the TMC claims that he may have procured the medicines posing as an NGO head and not as a govt official, yet the biggest question with regard to this is how easily he was able to procure the medicines whom he injected into unsuspecting people who trusted him. After raiding his plush Kasba office, the police confiscated a number of hard discs and computers, which he used to create fake KMC logos and Covaxin stickers. To add insult to injury, a huge quantity of fake sanitizers were also recovered from his office. These fake ones were actually liquids used to disinfect floors and were composed of Hydrogen Peroxide instead of Ethyl Alcohol used in hand sanitizers. BJP Rajya Sabha MP, Dr. Swapan Dasgupta tweeted, ‘More details of the fake IAS & fake vaccination scandal in Kolkata awaited. Prima facie it suggests that a picture of @MamataOfficial & display of Trinamool colours secures a blank cheque to do just about anything in W Bengal. This now includes selling coupons for free vaccines.’ (https://twitter.com/swapan55/status/1408269689373925383?s=19).
The entire episode has left the average Kolkatan in a state of shock and alarm. Are their lives of no worth to the powrrs that be? In the year 2018, a bizarre incident had come to the fore when it was revealed that some prominent eateries in Kolkata were selling non vegetarian food items where the chicken and meat constituent was actually meat from a dead animal. Selling dead animals to eateries had grown into a roaring business in the city of Kolkata over a period of time. Though the kingpin of this racket was initially arrested, he was released on bail soon after and the entire incident seems to have been forgotten, despite the possibility of adverse health hazard on the customers of these eateries after consuming the meat from dead animals.
The quintessential netizen feels that the fake vaccine racket will also be brushed under the carpet and forgotten, like the dead animal meat incident, even wheb the individuals involved in it are criminals of the order of homicidal maniac, who donot flinch before killing people, in order to earn a few bucks. They should be meted out the same treatment as a mass murder. Debanjan Deb is guilty of playing on the people’s fear and panick when there was a mad rush for vaccination, with slots very hard to come by, he duped the people with an easy way out to vaccinate themselves. News reports indicate that people came from long distances too in trains for the vaccination, even when currently trains in Bengal are plying only for the emergency workers. Some netizens question his motive for the fake camp – was it only for money or was it with the intent of defaming the govt’s vaccination drive? This is something one needs to ponder upon.
However, does the average Bengali care? They have a short term memory for such incidents, lament a few netizens – they forgot the rotten food composed of dead animal meat, they will forget the fake vaccination camp too. The tragedy is that they seemed to have got used such gory incidents aimed at jeopardizing their very survival. They feel that a minor rise in fuel prices affects them more than the above incidents which may take their lives or that of their near and dear ones!