“The probe has found that Biswajit Sikdar, who has been working at the SSKM laboratory, is the mastermind. He has been working here for the past month and a half. His brother Indrajit, who was working at RG Kar Hospital for the past four months, helped him. A third person — Amit Pyra — was paid to get the work done,” said acting DCP (south suburban) Biswajit Ghosh.
According to the banker’s family, the Naktala resident developed fever on July 20 and thereafter began experiencing respiratory distress. A family acquaintance arranged for his swab and blood samples to be collected on July 25. The banker’s daughter recounted that the collection agent came without PPE. When she asked him to be careful, he shrugged her off and said he was used to such work. The agent left after collecting the samples and was paid the test charges and an additional Rs 2,000 for the home collection service. The report was to be delivered the next day.
That evening, the patient’s condition deteriorated, increasing the family’s anxiety for the report. They finally arrived via WhatsApp on July 27 and stated the patient had tested negative for Covid-19. “The report had blank spaces and no doctor’s name. While the first page containing regular blood test reports had the lab letterhead, the second page containing the Covid report was a plain white sheet and the word ‘neg ative’ was written in pen. The ICMR Sample Requisition forms have 13 digits, but this one had nine. When we went to the lab, they said they do not even test Covid patients. They had received a call from a government lab assistant and had tested the blood samples,” said an officer.
As his condition worsened, the banker was taken to a private hospital in Baghajatin on July 27 and a CT-scan revealed “viral pneumonia”. The doctor told the family he had 99% symptoms of Covid-19 and asked them to shift him to a Covid hospital. After being denied admission by multiple hospitals due to the negative report, the family finally managed to take him to MR Bangur Hospital on the morning of July 28. But he expired within half an hour.
When the family tried to claim the body after showing the Covid-negative certificate, the doctors said the report was fake and wanted a fresh test. “We were informed on July 31 that he was a suspected Covid patient, and hence, his body was cremated following Covid protocols,” the patient’s daughter said.
The patient’s wife lodged an FIR stating that had the report been genuine, the family could have responded earlier and the hospitals would have taken in her husband and he could have survived. The Netaji Nagar police drew up charges on cheating and forgery. When the police used the WhatsApp number to trace and arrest Sikdar, he claimed he tested the sample at the SSKM Covid-testing facility before writing the Covid-negative report. “We do not believe him. He might have made many more such fake reports,” said DCP Ghosh.
“My father had all symptoms of Covid, but we had a Covid-negative report. A day before his death, we tried to get him admitted to a private hospital, but everyone refused citing he was Covid-negative. By the time we took him to MR Bangur Hospital, doctors could check him for barely half an hour before he died,” the patient’s daughter told TOI. “I demand strict punishment for the criminals as I don’t wish for any other daughter to lose her father because of such rackets,” she said.