HARIDWAR, India — Investigations have revealed that a private agency accused of irregularities in Covid-19 tests during the recent ‘Kumbh Mela’ in the northern Indian city of Haridwar continued to upload data on the Indian Council of Medical Research portal even after its agreement with the Mela administration concluded, said the police.

Millions of devotees and ash-smeared ascetics congregate at the Kumbh Mela to take a dip in the river Ganga. The ritual is believed to wash away sins and free people from the cycle of birth and death. But this year’s event raised a flutter as it took place during the second wave of the pandemic in India.

The Indian Council of Medical Research is the apex body in India to formulate, coordinate, and promote biomedical research.

The contract period for coronavirus investigations signed between the Kumbh Mela Health Officer’s office and the private agency Max Corporate and the two private laboratories, Lalchandani Lab and Nalwa Laboratories, was valid until April.

As per law, the labs should have stopped conducting Covid-19 tests after this period, but an investigation by the special investigation team revealed that the labs kept uploading the test data on the Indian Council of Medical Research portal till May 16.

“I have instructed the Haridwar senior superintendent of police that the special investigation team should investigate in-depth whatever five to six serious points have come up in the RT-PCR Testing Scam,” said Ashok Kumar, Director General of Police.

“No person found guilty would be spared. Further investigation by the special investigation team is underway. It is investigating all other angles as well.”

Earlier, sources said that the special investigation team had issued notices to Max Corporate Service New Delhi, Nalwa Laboratories Private Limited of Haryana, and Lalchandani Lab for questioning. The special investigation team has given them four days to appear before it.

On June 17, Haridwar District Magistrate, C. Ravishankar, said investigations should be done to find out if the private laboratories engaged by the state government to conduct tests during the Kumbh had been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research before their empanelment.

Circle Officers will also probe the whole matters,” he said.

“There seems to be a flaw also in the process of impaneling the labs. It should have been probed if the Indian Council of Medical Research approved them before their empanelment. But this was not done. This is a matter of investigation.”

“The matter was being investigated on the district administration level and Dehradun level as well. In the district-level probe, many inconsistencies have been found in the Covid test reports during Mahakumbh. In this connection, a case has been lodged against Max corporate agency and two private labs.”

The officer said further probe is underway, and it can take up to 10 more days. Other sections will also be added to the case based on the report.

He informed that in the investigation, it was found that as many as 100,000 test reports were produced by only one lab, which is impossible, adding that discrepancies in data entry have also been found.

Uttrakhand government registered a case against two private labs and Max Corporate Limited agency in this connection.

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Amrita Das and Saptak Datta)

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