Three-Member SIT to Probe Covid-19 Testing Scam in Amritsar, Says CM Amarinder Singh

A three-member Special Investigation Team will probe the alleged COVID testing scam by a private lab in Amritsar, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Sunday.

The chief minister announced this during his 'AskCaptain' Facebook Live session in which he warned that his government will not allow private hospitals or laboratories to profiteer from this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis facing humanity.

Singh said he had received a complaint against the private lab and had asked the Vigilance Bureau to look into the matter. But when initial investigation showed that there was no involvement of any government department or officer, the case was transferred to the Punjab Police, he said.

The three-member SIT will be headed by the police commissioner of Amritsar, who is a doctor, Singh said, adding that among its members will be a civil surgeon.

Singh said that he has ordered the SIT to conduct a thorough investigation and submit its findings soon so that suitable action can be taken.

Besides from the fact that the Vigilance Bureau had, prima facie, not found any complicity of any government department or official in the case, the lab itself had moved the court challenging the bureau's jurisdiction, a spokesperson of the Chief Minister's Office later said.

The government deemed it fit to transfer the case to the Punjab Police to ensure that no legal hurdle is posed later, he said.

The chief minister has also taken strong exception to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Majithia's attempts to "politicise" the simple jurisdictional decision of transferring the probe to the district police, the spokesperson said.

Majithia on Saturday had demanded an independent inquiry by a central agency or a sitting judge of the high court into the "fake COVD-19 reports" scam by the private testing lab in Amritsar.

Singh said that rather than raising such a "nonsensical" issue and weakening the morale of the police, Majitha should invest his time and energy in pressuring the SAD's political masters in Delhi to put a stop on the Central Bureau of Investigation's "interference" in the Punjab Police's probe into the Bargari and other sacrilege cases, and the subsequent policing firing incidents.

The SAD is an ally of the BJP, which is power at the Centre.

On the issue of university and college exams for final-term students, the chief minister made it clear that he does not agree with the latest University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines that make it mandatory for the examinations to be held by September-end.

The UGC should leave it to states to decide, given their ground realities in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Singh hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would understand the state's concern and intervene in the interest of the safety of students. He had written to Modi in this regard on Saturday.

The chief minister tasked the education department to work out ways to ensure seamless delivery of education to students with no or inadequate online access.

Given the COVID-19 situation, which is preventing regular offline classes to be held, it is imperative to ensure equal educational opportunity and access for all students, including the poor and rural students, Singh said in response to a question during the Facebook session.

The department is exploring ways and means to deal with challenges of imparting education to those who do not have access to online systems, he said.

The new processes would be put in place very soon to ensure that students do not suffer due to the prolonged suspension of physical classes, the chief minister said.

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