INDIA. Mumbai: While the instances of unreliable RT-PCR test reports have continued to surface from different parts of the country, one more instance of a woman traveller being certified as “negative”, in a very short spell, after she tested “positive” has come to light at the Mumbai’s international airport.
The woman Shabista Aklekar was scheduled to take a flight for Bahrain at 10.40 am on May 08, 2021, from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), Mumbai. However, the officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) informed her at 10.30 am that her RT-PCR certificate had become invalid and she will have to undergo the test again. In the test at the airport testing facility, she tested positive for COVID-19 and as such was not allowed to proceed. The BMC officials told her that she will have to be quarantined institutionally at a hotel nearby. This perplexed the Bahrain-bound woman as she couldn’t take the flight to Bahrain to meet her husband, who works there.
Aklekar, who had come from Raigad district with her two children began crying and got in touch with Congress Corporator Sufiyan Vanu. Vanu who rushed to the airport argued with the officials who were not allowing the woman to leave. As such he demanded to know which Standard Operating Procedures the BMC officials were following. After a lot of arguments, she was allowed to go after a declaration was obtained from her.
Then Vanu took her to the “GeneHealth Diagnostics Private Limited”. The test report dated May 10, 2021, of this laboratory certified her “negative”. Whereas the laboratory of “ Lifenity Wellness International Limited” at the airport had certified her as “positive”. CSMIA currently hosts three testing facilities at the terminal which are handled by Suburban Diagnostics, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, and Lifenity Wellness International Limited. In the bargain, Aklekar suffered a loss of over Rs one lakh besides facing a trauma.
Vanu who posted a video on social media alleged that a racket of testing travellers positive and then forcing them to undergo institutional quarantine is going on in collusion with tasting laboratories and the BMC officials. He also produced copies of the test reports of Aklekar which gave different assessment.
Speaking to the “Transcontinental Times”, Vanu alleged that this is a money-making racket where BMC officials show bogus rules to the public and then make them tested at the airport facility. After the passengers are tested positive, they are forced to go for institutional isolation. As such the matter should be inquired. A similar incident had come to light in January as well. “Next week I will move a no-confidence motion against Deputy Municipal Commissioner Parag Masurkar under whose supervision the testing facilities at the airport work. Masurkar did not respond to several phone calls made and also did not respond to the WhatsApp message sent by this correspondent seeking his reaction.
This is not the first time that such an allegation is being made against BMC officials deputed at the airport. In April, the singer-songwriter Piyu Udasi, had posted a video on Instagram accusing a nexus between officials at the at Mumbai Airport, who first forced the travellers to get institutional quarantine and then asked them to pay a bribe to escape the mandatory institutional quarantine.
She had alleged that her brother, who returned from Africa and had tested negative twice, requested the officials at the airport to test him for COVID-19, however, they had told him that the seven-day institutional quarantine was mandatory. Later he was taken to a hotel named Sai Leela Grand in Andheri east in northwest Mumbai, where his passport was seized and he was asked to shell out a bribe of Rs 10,000 if he wished to escape the quarantine.