Bengaluru, May 5: After the ‘sex-for-job’ scandal that rocked Karnataka where a minister reportedly offered a job to a woman in exchange for sexual favours, another scam is in play, this time it’s ‘bribe for beds’ for Covid patients. But the scam was layered as there was a hidden communal agenda too.
In a startling revelation, BJP's Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya provided ‘proof’ that 4,065 hospital beds booked in the name of Covid-19 patients were diverted in return for bribes in the past week. He alleged a massive racket in bed allotment and slammed the civic body’s (BBMP) Covid-19 management and demanded strict action against civic officials involved in the scam.
Surya’s revelation left the BJP-led Yediyurappa red-faced. The Chief Minister immediately ordered a probe. Yediyurappa admitted there was corruption in bed allotment and said he would initiate action against those involved, regardless of how influential they were.
Meanwhile, the police Wednesday arrested four persons for alleged corruption and malpractice in allocating beds through the BBMP’s centralised bed allocation system.
The four accused were Rihan, Shashi, Rohit and Netravati, according to Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Sandeep Patil. He said four others have been questioned so far, including a man named Suresh.
Surya alleged that some BBMP officials, hospital staffers, and people managing the Covid zonal war rooms were involved. “My party may be in administration, but we cannot sit quietly looking at this level of corruption that has led to many deaths. I apologise to the families of people who died because of this unholy nexus. We cannot bring back those who have died, but we want to prevent more people from dying,” he said.
The scam involved corrupt officials booking beds in the name of asymptomatic patients in home isolation. “After the bed is booked, if the patient doesn’t get admitted in 12 hours, it is automatically unblocked for other patients. In this 12-hour window, agents contact patients looking for admission and divert the beds to them. We contacted multiple people whose names beds were blocked and found that they had recovered long back. They were not aware that beds were booked in their name,” Surya said. Even ICU and ventilator ones were assigned to those willing to pay a bribe.
Revealing another tactic, Surya said: “A bed gets vacant at midnight, and it is blocked in the next two minutes. And in the next 30 seconds, the patient gets admitted there. How can a patient reach the place in 30 seconds?”
But critics of Surya say that the so-called scam had a communal twist. Soon after the MP’s press conference, social media was flooded with allegations that Muslim officials were denying beds to Hindus. Surya’s supporters put out names of corrupt officials – most of them Muslims and many who were not even remotely involved in managing the Covid war rooms.
Meanwhile, with over 3 lakh active cases, Bengaluru’s Covid situation has turned grim. Oxygen supply has dwindled and beds have become scarce. Every day, family members of at least 500 patients hit the roads in search of ventilator beds in different hospitals of the city, and barely two dozens of them meet with success.
Reports indicate that every other Bengalurean undergoing Covid test is turning positive as the city’s positivity rate touched an all-time high of 55% Monday. However, on Tuesday, the rate improved to 33% — which means one in every three persons tested turned positive.
In order to check the spread of the virus, Karnataka is considering a two-week lockdown after Ramzan.