While Karnataka Chief Minister Yediyurappa is mulling over extending the lockdown beyond 7 June, there are allegations pointing to lawmakers in the state making money through COVID vaccines, sources told The Quint.
On Saturday, 29 May, an audio clip surfaced on social media where a social worker HM Venkatesh is enquiring about the cost to get his son vaccinated. A lady, reportedly from AV Hospital in Bengaluru’s Basavanagudi, is found revealing details about paying Rs 700 as commission (per dose) to Karnataka MLA Ravi Subramanya.
Here are the excerpts from the audio clip:
Activist: I don’t know how to get this done through CoWIN. Can you help me?
AV Hospital staff: You'll have to then register through Ravi Subramanya’s office or Vasavi Hospital. They'll give a registration number, and then you can get vaccinated.
Activist: Is the vaccine being administered via MLA's office? How's it happening?
AV Hospital staff: Yes, via their office.
Activist: What is the cost?
AV Hospital staff: Rs 900.
Activist: Rs 900 is a little too much. Can the price be reduced? We are not from a well-to-do family.
AV Hospital staff: I understand. The money is going to the MLA's office and not to the hospital.
Activist: So, it's through the office that the vaccine is being administered?
AV Hospital staff: You should call them and then register. We don’t administer the vaccine dose.
Activist: Then how are you receiving the vaccines in your hospital?
AV Hospital staff: MLA’s office staff will come to the hospital and administer the vaccine. Vasavi Hospital staff administers the vaccine in our hospital.
Venkatesh claims to have made this call on Friday evening, 28 May. The hospital staff, however, have said they have nothing to do with this call or the audio clip.
“I haven’t got myself vaccinated yet. I am a senior citizen. I can’t wait in those long queues. But I am worried for my son. I want him to get vaccinated,” said Venkatesh.
Meanwhile, India Today reported that the activist has filed a police complaint against Tejasvi Surya and Ravi Subramanya.
Venkatesh added that if an investigation of the incoming and outgoing calls on his mobile phone is conducted, “they will get to know who is lying”.
‘Cock and Bull Story’: Ravi Subramanya
MLA Ravi Subramanya was quick to deny these allegations, terming it a “cock and bull story” while adding that he is set to file a police complaint.
“Be it Venkatesh or the hospital staff. Whoever is involved, needs to be booked. We want the truth to come out,” he said.
The MLA wondered why nobody questioned those private hospitals that are charging Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,500 per dose. BJP spokesperson S Prakash said that the normal rate to procure vaccines is Rs 700.
“Any private hospital will have to pay Rs 700 per dose. Rs 200 is the service charge. Where is the question of commission?” he questioned.
In the beginning of May, Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya, his uncle and Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya, and Bommanahalli MLA Satish Reddy vociferously spoke about a “bed allotment scam”.
They even stormed into a COVID war room and questioned the appointment of around 17 officials. “This is nothing but political vendetta now,” alleged Subramanya. With such false narratives, “these sadists derive pleasure,” he continued.
While the office of Tejasvi Surya claimed that these are false allegations, the MLA said that he has no tie-up with any hospital. Ads released by Vasavi Hospital in Bengaluru to promote vaccination drive at Rs 900 per dose clearly state that it is supported by the office of Tejasvi Surya.
Congress Demands FIR Against Surya and Subramanya
Addressing a press conference, Congress leader Pawan Khera and Srinivas V demanded an FIR against Surya and Subramanya.
“This is a cash-for-vaccine case, and the membership of Tejasvi Surya and his uncle should be cancelled from the Lok Sabha and the Karnataka Assembly, respectively. We demand immediate arrest of both BJP leaders,” the Congress said.
Further, the Congress also pointed out that hoardings featuring Surya could be seen "all over the city, asking people to get vaccinated at this particular hospital".
"At a time when people are desperate to get vaccinated, BJP leaders are looking for opportunities and are trying to earn money. We want to know how vaccines are available at this private hospital when they aren't available at government hospitals for common people," the Congress added.
(With inputs from Pratiba Raman.)