Congress demands judicial inquiry against PM Modi, ex-Health Minister, ICMR officials for fudging COVID data

Congress leader Ajay Maken cited a New York Times report which quoted former scientists of (ICMR) to claim political interference in giving out data on COVID-19 and related deaths

Congress leader Ajay Maken (File photo)
Congress leader Ajay Maken (File photo)

NH Web Desk

The Congress on Thursday cited a recent media report to allege "criminal culpability" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and senior officials of the ICMR in fudging COVID-19 data "to build a false narrative that everything was normal" ahead of the second wave, and demanded a judicial inquiry against them.

Citing the New York Times report which quoted former scientists of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to claim political interference in giving out data on COVID-19 and related deaths, senior spokesperson of the Congress Ajay Maken said this is a very serious issue and should be probed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or a high court.

At a press conference, Maken said former ICMR scientists have themselves come out openly now and said that because of political interference, the data was fudged and a false narrative was built that everything is normal.

"We are demanding that a criminal investigation be carried out against the prime minister, against the former health minister and against senior officials of ICMR," he told reporters.

The Congress leader said this is a very serious issue that the scientists have raised and noted that the party has said earlier too that an inquiry is best conducted when it is a judicial inquiry conducted by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or a high court under the supervision of the court.

"That is the best form of any investigation. There should be a criminal investigation under court supervision by a sitting judge as this is not a small matter," he said.

"We feel that it was because of this reason that the guard was lowered and the state governments were unprepared and so was the general public, because of which there were large number of avoidable deaths during the second wave of coronavirus that caused so much devastation," he said.

"We could have saved so many lives had the false narrative not started and hence it requires a criminal investigation," he said.

“Second Covid Wave hit India severally in April 2021. Modi Govt was caught unprepared. People of India were left to fend for themselves. Black marketeering of drugs like Hydroxychloroquine, Ivermactine, Fabi Flu, Dexona, Tocilizumab, Remdesivir, Paracetamol was galore. A single injection of Remdesivir was selling between Rs.50,000 to Rs.1 lakh, Tocilizumab injection for upto Rs.10 lakh in black market. People gasped for and died as there was no oxygen. People died for there were no ventilators. People died for there were no hospital beds. Lakhs of bodies floated in The Ganga and other rivers. Modi Govt abandoned India as close to 50 lakh died,” Maken said.

“Now, as the time goes by, more and more scientists who worked with the Indian Council of Medical Research are coming forward with startling facts of political interference and arrogance which was not only against ‘science and democracy’, but also caused millions of preventable deaths. These scientists, to name a few, Dr Anup Aggarwal, Dr Naman Shah, Dr Somdatta Sinha, Dr Shahid Jameel and others are gradually opening in social media and foreign publications," he said.

"Following are some of these examples, which in our opinion should be inquired upon for criminal culpability," he said.

i) In June 2020, a study a study commissioned by the ICMR concluded that Mr. Modi's lockdown had slowed but would not stop the virus's spread. Within days, the authors withdrew it. And ICMR tweeted the withdrawal. Some of the scientists, now say that they were forced to withdraw the report.

ii) In July 2020, DG, ICMR – Dr. Balram Bhargav forced ICMR scientists to withhold data, based on serological studies, which suggested that virus was spreading to 10 cities. This deliberate blunder led to loss of lakhs of lives.

iii) In September 2020, eight months before a deadly COVID-19 second wave, a managed and faulty report by the Government, downplayed the possibility of a new wave or outbreak. They credited PM Modi for early lockdown efforts as the reason.

iv) When some scientists including Dr Anup Aggarwal pointed out serious lapses in the report. ICMR reprimanded Dr. Anup Aggarwal and other scientists for pointing out failures of Government and predicting a 2nd wave. Ultimately, Dr. Anup Aggarwal had to resign from ICMR and leave India.

v) Scientists, earlier with ICMR now allege that ICMR released wrong data to suggest that Corona was not spreading in India as virulently as rest of the countries.

vi) ICMR approved a wrong ‘Super Model Study’ and released it indicating that Covid will almost end by mid-February. It also wrongly cited that India has achieved herd immunity. Study was not founded upon any scientific parameter and whenever the Covid curve changed, they changed the parameter.

vii) "They had parameters which can't be measured and whenever the curve was not matching, they changed that parameter," said Somdatta Sinha, a retired scientist who studies infectious disease models and who wrote a rebuttal. "I mean, we don't do modeling like that. This is misguiding people."

viii) A study published in the journal Nature in January 2021 predicted the 2nd wave and called for more testing. ICMR made the author (an ICMR scientist) remove his affiliation with ICMR from the paper.

ix) Such narratives, contrary to the data and science, created a sense of false confidence amongst the people, who got careless and negligent of the impending second wave. And when the second wave struck, this false narrative took the state governments, the citizens and the hospital administrations by surprise, thereby increasing the casualties manifold.

x) Wrong lines for treatment were being suggested, contrary to scientists’ views. In 2020, ICMR had predicted inefficacy of ‘blood plasma’ and ‘hydroxychloroquine’ in fighting Covid. No one was permitted to speak about it in ICMR as BJP was organising ‘Blood Plasma Camps’ on 70th birthday of Modi as also ‘hydroxychloroquine’ was being used as a political scoring point by Modi with Trump.

"Criminal culpability of PM Modi and his Govt has now been exposed. Had the Modi Government not suppressed data, subjugated scientists, forbidden and withdrawn ICMR studies – all so that PM could conduct rallies and build a narration of having won the war over Corona, lakhs of lives could have been saved. PM Modi and ICMR are singularly responsible for deaths of millions of Indians. This warrants a criminal investigation against the PM, the then Health Minister as also Management of ICMR," Maken said.

On another question about criminal investigation against ICMR, he said: “First of all, we are demanding that a criminal investigation should be carried out against the Prime Minister, against the then Health Minister, then ICMR senior officials and the reason is quite simple and it is very important that the scientists who worked with ICMR, themselves they have come out now openly and they have said that because of political interference, the data was fudged and a false narrative was set that everything is normal.”

“We feel that it was because of this reason that the guards were down, the state governments were unprepared, the general public was unprepared because of which the second wave of Covid came and which caused so much of devastation that ‘The Economist’ says that around 68 lakh people in our country might have died. So, we could have saved so many lives, had this false narrative not set. So, it is the criminal investigation. It is an issue, it is the criminal culpability. We feel that criminal investigation should be conducted against the Prime Minister, against the then Health Minister and senior ICMR official also and the Congress Party is going to take it up on the streets as well as in the Parliament in coming days,” he said.

The Congress party will hit the streets on the issue as well as raise it in Parliament in the coming days, Maken said.

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