Two people have been arrested, and others are being questioned, after BJP Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya accused city municipal officials of accepting bribes to allot hospital beds in the city – a precious commodity as the Covid pandemic rages.
The arrested have been identified as Rohit and Netra; they allegedly charged between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000 for a bed, and police recovered Rs 1.05 lakh from their bank account.
Mr Surya had alleged that a “nexus of BBMP officials and frontline health workers” is conspiring to “buy” these beds after snatching them away from people who were dying without ICU care.
“BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) booking site says all beds are full. So many people are getting discharged… but the BBMP says all beds are booked. There is a nexus of BBMP officials, Aarogya Mitra (a frontline health service) people in hospitals and outside agents,” he said.
Mr Surya alleged the beds were being initially reserved in the names of Covid patients in home isolation who were unaware of the allotment. After they failed to show up for admission the bed was “auto un-blocked”, he said, claiming this had happened “in thousands of cases”.
BBMP officials would then, he said, find someone to “buy” the bed.
Beds at government hospitals, and at private hospitals that have reserved a certain number to be filled by the state, are allotted via requests to a centralised number.
“This is the most disgusting thing that can take place in a pandemic,” the BJP MP declared, adding that Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had promised action against those involved.
The BBMP has yet to respond to this matter.
Bengaluru police chief Kamal Pant said the matter had been handed over to the Central Crime Branch.
“A case has been registered in Jayanagar Police Station for fraud and cheating allegedly committed in allotment of beds on BBMP portal for Covid patients. Two accused have been arrested and others are being questioned for alleged fraud/irregularity in allotment of beds in return for money from patients.”
.. in the allotment of beds in return for money from patients.
The case has been handed over to @CCBBangalore for a detailed and in-depth investigation. (2/2)
— Kamal Pant, IPS (@CPBlr) May 4, 2021
Police say a BBMP official was likely involved, since allotment of beds could not happen otherwise.
At a time when hospital beds are in short supply this is a serious allegation.
It is also, however, an allegation against Mr Surya’s own party; the BJP is the largest member of the Bengaluru civic body and the city’s Mayor, Gowtham Kumar, is a BJP corporator.
The Congress was quick to pounce on this self-goal.
State chief DK Shivakumar tweeted: “I congratulate MP Tejasvi Surya, MLAs Satish Reddy, Ravi Subramanya and Uday Garudachar for EXPOSING CORRUPTION in bed allocation by their party government and corporation.”
“Under whose control is BBMP? They should immediately name the BJP minister responsible for people suffering so much,” Mr Shivakumar added.
I congratulate MP Tejasvi Surya, MLAs Satish Reddy, Ravi Subramanya & Uday Garudachar for EXPOSING CORRUPTION in bed allocation by their party govt & corporation.
Under whose control is BBMP? They should immediately name the BJP Minister responsible for people suffering so much.
— DK Shivakumar (@DKShivakumar) May 4, 2021
Late Tuesday night Mr Surya tweeted to say the “system is reforming”; he posted a screenshot that showed over 1,500 empty beds from the government’s quota for COVID-19 patients.
“This afternoon BBMP website showed zero beds available in Bengaluru under government quota.
Right now, it is showing 1,504 beds as available. System is reforming,” he said.
This afternoon BBMP website showed zero beds available in Bengaluru under Govt Quota.
Right now, it is showing 1504 beds as available.
System is reforming. pic.twitter.com/j59Q8Cuk8X
— Tejasvi Surya (@Tejasvi_Surya) May 4, 2021
Karnataka on Tuesday evening reported over 40,000 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, of which more than 20,000 were from Bengaluru.
Hospitals in the state capital have struggled to deal with the flood of cases.
On Monday, at least three hospitals indicated they were running short of oxygen – two eventually received some supply. However, that was before two deaths at a hospital in the Yelahanka area were reported. An official report is pending but the deaths were linked to a drop in oxygen supply.