Angira Sarkar of Kulti, West Bardhaman district of Bengal, wanted to help the people affected with corona-19. She decided to buy five oxygen cylinders and kits for the purpose. She felt if she bought these through an NGO, it would be even better. On net, she found such an NGO and paid it Rs 58,000 for what she required. But the delivery never came. After she lodged compliant with Kuti police station, it was found that the address of the NGO, one of Kolkata’s southern suburbs, was false. A phone number was also given, and Angira had spoken to that number too. The cops found the phone was active in Patna, and not in Kolkata.
A lot of fraudulent activities around covid-19 are being reported during this second wave. Spurious essential medicines like Remdesivir surfaced in the market, and then black marketing of such drugs and equipment was reported from all over India. Fake testing labs have started operating in many areas. While the police were finding it tough to deal with all such cases, what has come up as an additional headache is swindling rackets spread across the states. According to sources, an increasing number of such cases are being reported now.
According to sources, operating from a different state than where the operation is on gives the swindlers some additional protection during these covid-19 days.. During these hard times, even the police cannot move to other states as freely and frequently as in older times. Seeking help from the police of the state where the criminal is based is an option available to the police. But every police station is over-burdened and has to give priority to its own cases. So, the process of nabbing such criminals is getting delayed. On the other hand, the swindlers have the advantage of using the net for trapping the innocents.
The swindlers are not one or a few individuals in all cases. Often they are operating as organised rackets and are active in different states. A glaring example of such an organised racket was a Uttarakhand-based spurious drug-making racket that was selling its product in at least 13 states. Before it was busted last month, it had operated for many months and had sold spurious Covid-19 drugs worth Rs 5 crore. To bust such rackets a coordinated effort of different state police is required. But, according to sources, such coordination is being hampered nowadays, the rising number of covid-19 patients in the police force is one of the reasons behind it.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)