In a bizarre development Narendra Modi, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Chopra and Akshay Kumar's names were found in RT-PCR test list of Karpi block in Arwal district of Bihar — far away from where they live— around 1,050 kilometers from New Delhi and 1,700 kilometers from Mumbai.
Arwal has recorded 7381 positive cases and 109 deaths till 6th December.
The RT-PCR test lists with the names of Narendra Modi, senior congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra and Akshay Kumar started circulating on Monday evening. The list went viral on social media, which was later picked up by media.
So, how did and why did all these politicians and Bollywood celebrities get an RT-PCR test in Bihar? They didn't.
With the names of the bigwigs were also phone numbers. So, BOOM contacted some of them whose numbers appeared with those names on the list as beneficiaries of RT-PCR tests. We also spoke to data operators and experts who have knowledge of testing to decode about what may have gone wrong in this case.
The list had fifteen names with their mobile numbers, sample number, swab details and outcome of tests. All the samples were collected on 27th October and all have negative results, according to the viral list.
In the same list, seven names were attached with just one mobile number. Another mobile number was used for five persons. When BOOM called them, they were shocked to know that their mobile numbers are in the list of RT-PCR tests.
A mobile number with the names Priyanka Chopra and Akshay Kumar actually belongs to 17-year-old Gaurav Kumar, resident of Bhagwanpur village in Arwal.
He said, "I had not given any sample for the Covid-19 test. I don't know how my number was in the list."
Gaurav had got his mother vaccinated, but he said he doesn't remember the date of vaccination. "I had submitted my mobile number for the vaccination of my mother. I think they had used my number from the vaccination details."
Similarly, the mobile number with the name of Rahul Gandhi, belongs to 25- year-old Purushottam Kumar. He is an Arwal resident and has been in Chennai since October. Apart from Rahul Gandhi, six other people's mobile numbers were the same as Purushottam's.
"I got my first dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the beginning of October and came to Chennai after 10 days," he said. He said he didn't get any RT-PCR test done in Bihar.
However, manipulation is not limited to only bigwigs. BOOM contacted others whose names were in the list. They denied taking any test. Their names did not match with the ones on the list.
For instance, the list has the name of Ajay Kumar but when this correspondent called him on his number, he identified as Mithun Singh. He categorically denied taking any test in October or before.
So, who botched up the RT-PCR test list?
With the list going viral, district health officials swung into action. Dr. Arvind Kumar, Civil Surgeon of Arwal district, told BOOM, "We have lodged police complaints against two data entry operators Vinay Kumar and Pravin Kumar who were assigned to entry data at that time."
Both the operators were hired from a private company.
Soon after the list went viral and caught on media, Dr. Shashikant Kumar, medical officer in charge, issued a press statement refuting the news. "I refute the news broadcast on News18 Bihar Jharkhand related to a health center. I had caught them doctoring with data and then informed their employer about it on 28th October," the press statement issued on 6 November read.
However, the 28 October letter accessed by BOOM didn't mention the alleged botched up. It talked about delaying data entry and violation of the official's order among other things.
"They are not complying with the order and doing what they wish-- which is affecting the data entry work. There are huge backlogs of data. So both are being sent back from the effect of 29th October," the letter issued on 28 October read.
The mischievous act of entering the names of Narendra Modi and other politicians and Bollywood stars didn't find a mention in the letter — an indication that the officials themselves were perhaps unaware of it at that time.
Mischief or False Data?
Health officials of Arwal district are terming this as a "mischief of data entry operators". However, another data entry operator working with a government hospital told BOOM that it could also be false data, added intentionally.
The data entry operator deputed at a government hospital in North Bihar told BOOM on the condition of anonymity, "Whenever a swab is taken from any person for an RT-PCR test, his name, father's name, village name and mobile number is written in the register. This register comes to us with samples. We put those details written in the register into the computer. The time we enter the details, the computer generates a sample number. We take a print out of the sample number and stick it on the sample and send it to the test lab."
Here is the catch. Even if there are no samples, the sample number can be generated. "It is not that the sample number will be generated only if samples are available physically. Computer will generate a sample number when you enter just the name and other details of a person."
But what about the negative result? He has an answer. "Vial has some liquid chemicals in it. When we take a swab with the help of a stick, we break that part into the vial through which we extract the swab. Even if we break the stick and put it into the vial, no one can say that the swab sample is not there in the vial."
Dr. VNR Das, scientist at Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (RMRIMS), Patna corroborated the data entry operator.
He says, "We have no way to know if the vial has a swab or not. We see sticks in the vials. If there is a stick in the vial we assume that the sample is there and if the stick is not in the vial, the sample is not there."
The data operator also said that there is a daily target of doing tests which is sometimes hard to achieve. That may be a reason why false data is being generated.
It is to be notes that this is not the first time that false mobile numbers and names have been used in Covid-19 tests. In February this year, the Indian Express investigated and found fake details in RT-PCR test lists.
As fake data has become an embarrassment for the state government once again, the health department has issued an order to randomly verify data.
Dr. Arvind Kumar, Civil Surgeon of the Bihar district that's now popular in the media for its botched up list, said, "All primary health centers have been told to verify at least 10% data randomly."
Updated On: 2021-12-10T14:06:30+05:30