After an investigation revealed that there has been alleged mobile number fudging, dodgy entries and uploading of fake data to siphon off profit from unused testing kits in Primary Health Centres in Bihar, the Health Department in the state has made it mandatory to produce a valid ID for testing, reports RHEA BINOY.
O ensure the authenticity of the crucial COVID-19 data to chart the status in the state, the Bihar Health Department has asked all civil surgeons in charge of the testing facilities under their jurisdiction, to ensure that people who come for testing, produce a valid ID.
The decision comes after an investigation by The Indian Express, found several gaps in the COVID-19 testing data compiled by the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and other facilities in at least four districts. It was also found that there was an alleged large-scale fudging of contact details essential for the tracing of the entries made.
A senior official told The Indian Express, “The department has been seriously considering the linking of the COVID-19 vaccination to Aadhaar and had already raised this with the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, but the final call is yet to be taken. But for now, a valid ID card has been made mandatory for COVID-19 testing.”
The Indian Express in its investigation visited PHCs in Jamui, Sheikhpura and Patna, and had accessed their testing records and it was found that basic data protocol was bypassed in a bid to meet the daily target which ranged from using fudged mobile numbers to fake numbers and dodgy entries and upload fake data to siphon off profit from unused testing kits.
Official figures showed that the state tested 76,878 samples on January 9 and 62,539 on February 12. On February 13, The Indian Express investigation revealed that the number had dipped to 47,282. A day later, it was down to 30,940.
It was in Jamui’s Barhat Primary Health Centre that 0000000000 was entered in the records as the “mobile number” of 28 out of 48 people who were shown as tested for COVID-19 on January 16. It is also the number for 46 out of 83 people tested on January 25. The same set of zeroes has been used for 73 out of 150 entries in Jamui Sadar on January 16.
In Sheikhpura, it was also found that the data compiled by the staff have blank columns for the contact numbers for 205 out of 245 entries for antigen tests conducted by PHCs at Barbigha and Ariari between January 21 and January 28.
There have been instances found where the names and contact numbers of the people in the data are genuine, but they have not been tested.
After the expose, Pratayaya Amrit, Principal Secretary, Bihar Health Department had assured of an investigation, and the civil surgeons who are in charge of the Health Department activities in the state are questioned and “to explain how such things are happening.”
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also said that action is being taken on the findings of The Indian Express investigation, the government has suspended nine Health personnel, including five senior officials, in Jamui. The Centre has also sought a “detailed report” from the Bihar government on the findings.
Bihar was among the states hardest hit by the pandemic, seeing a peak in cases in mid-2020. So far, the state has recorded 2,61,841 confirmed cases, with 564 currently active cases and 1528 deaths linked to COVID-19.
(Rhea Binoy is a journalism student at the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune and is an intern with The Leaflet.)