Police have arrested two people over alleged fraud in the allotment of beds to Covid-19 patients in Bengaluru, officials said on Tuesday. The arrests came hours after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarian Tejasvi Surya pointed to a nexus between civic officials and private agents.
Some officials in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the BJP-run municipal body in the information and technology hub, were conniving with touts to book hospital beds in the name of people under home isolation, Surya alleged, adding that these beds were later sold to patients in need at an exorbitant price.
The 30-year-old MP’s charge triggered a flutter in the BJP government after which a probe was ordered. The development came at a time when Karnataka, like most of India, is reeling under a deadly second wave of Covid-19 that has stressed the healthcare sector with hospital beds and life-saving medical oxygen in high demand.
On Tuesday, Karnataka reported 44,631 new cases and 292 deaths, taking the state’s infection count and fatalities to 16,90,934 and 16,538, respectively. Bengaluru alone accounted for almost half the fresh cases (20,870 infections) and deaths (132 fatalities).
“A case vide cr no. 87/21 has been registered in @jayanagarps for fraud and cheating allegedly committed in allotment of beds on BBMP portal for #COVID patients…,” Bengaluru Police commissioner Kamal Pant tweeted.
He said two accused were arrested and others were being questioned “for alleged fraud/irregularity in the allotment of beds in return for money from patients”. The case was handed over to Bengaluru’s City Crime Branch, or CCB, for probe.
According to Bengaluru South MP Surya, over 4,000 cases of irregularities were reported over the past 10 days. He alleged that many people, under whose name beds were booked, did not know about that in the first place.
He alleged that these were the beds that some BBMP officials tried to sell at a high price with the help of private agents. The beds were freed after 12 hours, if there were no takers. He also alleged that some private hospitals, where admissions happen “only at night”, could be involved in the nexus.
Audio recordings in which people could be heard stating that they had no information about beds being allotted to them have surfaced, lending credence to Surya’s allegations.
“Whoever is involved, strong action will be taken…it has to be transparent,” deputy chief minister CN Ashwathnarayan said.