February 6, 2022
In the past two years of the Coronavirus pandemic, Indians have coughed out a stupendous Rs 74,000 crore for 74 crore Covid-19 tests from dubious private pathological labs. Finally, around 4.20 crore positive cases were detected with more than 500,000 deaths, till date.
A Nagpur-based consumer rights NGO, Grahak Bharati has said that Indians have taken various Covid-19 tests like RTPCR, RAT, TrueNAT, CBNAAT and other tests through (currently) 3,255 testing labs including 1,844 private and 1,411 government.
Of these 3,255, only 2,141 (764 government and 1,377 private) labs are for conducting the much-in-demand, compulsory for most purposes and universally accepted RTPCR tests., and the remaining 1,114 (647 government+467) labs offer the other tests.
In the initial stages of the pandemic, a test was costing around Rs 3,500 or more, but gradually, the figures have stabilised to around Rs 600, besides cheap home-test kits available for around Rs 250 now.
"Considering an average of Rs 1000/test, Indians have been compelled to spend over Rs 74,000-crore only for Covid-19 tests, with private labs netting the major portion of the loot," Grahak Bharati Founder-President Barrister Vinod Tiwari told IANS.
He claimed that a majority of these tests were virtually forced on the people even though they had no initial symptoms, or, unnecessary considering the low positivity rate, and ended up spooking the country in the name of coronavirus.
Grahak Bharati has shot off a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister of Health & Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the ICMR, top central and state officials and the Central Vigilance Commission, demanding a probe into the "massive unbridled dacoity" being perpetrated on gullible Indians.
He warned that if the government fails to take priority cognisance of this nationwide racket, Grahak Bharati would file a PIL in the Supreme Court.
Alleging that it is "a systematic mega-scam" with the connivance of government officials, unscrupulous private labs and their franchisees operating with the generous blessings of politicians, Tiwari contended that it violates provisions of the central Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010 and make such shady labs liable for severe penal action.
Elaborating, Tiwari explained that many of the private labs are remotely located franchisees under the officially approved/recognised Advanced Laboratories (1,844) in India.
Shockingly, many of these labs apparently conduct thousands of Covid-19 tests daily, ostensibly without proper approval, authority, quality control, infrastructure or qualified manpower.
"The ICMR has said that on a single day on Feb. 4, there were an unbelievable 16,03,856 tests conducted Were these necessary and practical? This only points to the possibility that a majority of the Covid tests are 'concocted' to scare the masses," alleged Tiwari.
The worrisome aspect is that merely based on these illegally-conducted tests, the government has been taking major policy decisions like lockdowns, restrictions, curbs on inter-district, inter-state and even international public movements, which in turn has spelled the death-knell for the economy. India ranks second globally (after the USA) in terms of the total infectees notched up till date.
"The so-called franchisee labs lack infrastructure, qualified post-graduate doctors, particularly Pathologist and Microbiologist and others compulsorily required for the RTPCR tests and to determine the Covid-19 positive patients, tests are conducted in remote locations and the test results are issued indiscriminately, with the digital signatures of the medicos at Advanced Laboratories thousands of kms away," fumed Tiwari.
Grahak Bharati says there is no control on the procedures for sample collection, handling, proper testing or accurate determination which often lead to contradictory results.
It recently happened with two Mumbaikars who got two different results - Covid negative and Covid positive - from two labs in 24 hours (IANS report - Jan. 12) but the Aarogya Setu portal remained unfazed.
Tiwari said that the country is in the grip of the mild Third Wave but "there is no guarantee" how many more 'waves' will sink Indians unless the government immediately clamps down on this "blatant, organised scam".