Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) MP Manoj Jha on Friday, 12 February has demanded a high-level impartial probe after Indian Express’ continuous reportage on an alleged COVID-19 testing data fudge in Bihar.
The RJD MP took the matter to the Rajya Sabha and asked for an impartial, thorough investigation. “Over the past two days a leading national daily (referring to The Indian Express) has been carrying stories on manipulation and fudging of COVID testing data in Bihar. Astonishingly, testing figures crossed one lakh in seven days, and then it crossed 2 lakh in another 14 days,” said Jha during the zero hour in Rajya Sabha, on Friday.
“It has been found that many columns in testing data have been left blank. Contract tracing is difficult since mobile numbers with ten zeroes have been entered against names, and in many cases, the names and mobile numbers of people are not matching. I want to demand, through you sir, a high-level inquiry into this,” Jha added.
Responding to Jha, Chariman of Rajya Sabha Venkaih Naidu assured him of a fair probe into the matter. “The matter raised by Jha is important and I request Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to inquire into the gaps highlighted by the investigation,” said Naidu.
Meanwhile, Jha has also urged the government to use original identity proofs, such as aadhaar card, pan card, and the likes, for maintaining COVID-19 data, so that, “No one can make a mockery of the health system this way,” he said.
Irregularities in Testing
According to a series of investigative reports by Indian Express, as many as 885 entries in COVID-19 testing records from three different districts of Bihar had found fake mobile numbers, names and other dodgy details. Here are some key findings of the reports:
- Out of 588 entries in Bihar’s district, Jamui, only 120 records could be verified, which means only 20 percent of the records were verified and all other information entered was fake.
- At Barhat Primary center in Jamui ‘0000000000’ has been entered as the mobile numbers of 28 people, out of 48 people who were allegedly tested for COVID on 16 January.
- Many fake numbers were listed, some of them did not even belong to any testers, reported the news daily.
Responding to this, Health Minister Mangal Pandey said, “I have asked the Principal Secretary, Health, to look into every finding being reported and take legal action if anyone is found responsible… We have just started an internal probe. The Health Department is looking into all aspects.”
Tejashwi Yadav, leader of the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly also demanded an impartial probe into this matter. He tweeted, “Bihar had the worst testing statistics. We repeatedly requested the CM to ramp it up, he responded by transferring three health secretaries (who didn’t fudge data) and ultimately faking the numbers through his trusted Babus to mint money. CM must reply on this scam.”
The Bihar state has so far recorded 2,61,447 positive coronavirus cases with 754 currently active cases, and 1,518 deaths.