Bengaluru: The infamous cash for bed scam that shocked the entire nation and sent the government machinery into a tizzy has brought together Bengaluru South Member of Parliament and national president of BJYM, Tejasvi Surya and technocrat and architect of Aadhaar, Nandan Nilekani to come up with an advanced software that will aid bed allotment system in the tech city.
A team of tech architects also assisted by iSpirit is now redesigning the tool with a 100-hour deadline to weed out the anomalies to allow minimal manual intervention.
Within 24 hours, all the personnel handling bed booking at the war rooms have been given individual and personalized log-ins to fix accountability. Also, so far the waiting list was manual and this system was used to take advantage and allot beds according to their whims and fancies. Now an electronic queue system has been put in place which facilitates allotment on seniority and severity of the infection.
Amidst the entire din over non-availability of beds, oxygen and lifesaving drugs like remdesivir in this second wave of pandemic that has left the country devastated, an expose has brought to light on how unscrupulous elements embedded in the war rooms were blocking beds across Bengaluru hospitals and selling them at exorbitant prices in the black market.
Even as the dispensation was puzzled over how beds were not available, Tejasvi Surya stormed into the BBMP war room with a list of names who were allegedly involved in the cash for bed scam running into crores of rupees.
Coined “covid vultures”, these unscrupulous elements were blocking beds using BU numbers generated against those whose test results came positive for novel coronavirus. The alleged scamsters were picking BU numbers of those who had mild symptoms and were in home isolation. Once blocked, there is a 24-hour window and if the allottee doesn’t get admitted, the software would auto release the beds. In these 12 hours, the scheming agents would sell the beds in different categories—government hospitals, under 50-bed hospitals, over 100-bed hospitals and super specialty at different rates ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2 lakh.
On Tuesday, when Tejasvi along with BJP MLAs searched the war room, he said over 5,000 beds were auto released in the last three days, which revealed the magnitude, scale and gravity of the scam.
To give context to this auto release, even if one goes by conservative estimates, over 3,000 patients waiting in homes, ambulances and some even losing the battle against the deadly virus would have landed a bed and many lives could have been saved.
The Bengaluru City Police immediately registered a suo moto cause and took two individuals into custody. The following day, six more were arrested after the case was transferred to City Crime Branch. Several governments, prompted by the expose are now looking into bed allotments in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad, to check if a similar modus operandi was employed as even in these cities there was a bed shortage even after capacity building to a great extent.
The expose by Tejasvi was flagged down by Congress and JDS leaders in Karnataka by giving it a communal touch, which was instantly lapped up by left liberal activists. Tejasvi reading out names of the alleged scamsters belonging to one particular section went viral as pro-active members of both communities gave their own analogy to the expose.
However, the fact remains that bed blocking scam was for real and Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa lauding the young MP and acknowledging that it did happen right under his nose is a testimony by itself, at the cost of denting the government run by him.