Mamata Banerjee on Monday ended her public silence on vaccine scam accused Debanjan Deb, refusing to take his name in condemnation and calling him “more dangerous than terrorists” before asserting that police and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation could not evade responsibility in the matter.
The chief minister was asked at a news conference at the state secretariat regarding Deb, who had allegedly posed as an IAS officer and organised illegal “Covid-19 vaccination camps”. The police suspect that at least some of the recipients at Deb’s camps were administered an antibiotic called amikacin sulphate.
“No, no… by talking about him, is there any need to popularise him…? Those who are thieves, robbers, frauds, their names should not be given publicity. Call him a protarawk (cheat),” said an infuriated Mamata.
“The cheat who has been caught, such is his daring, audacity, arrogance, that he forged everything… there was no role of the government in this…. Those who do such things, I consider them neither human, nor inhuman,” she added, in her first public reaction on Deb.
“They should be called big terrorists…. They are more dangerous than terrorists…. I am at a loss for words in trying to condemn this.”
The police have booked Deb and others allegedly involved in the vaccine racket for attempt to murder.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee calls on an ailing Kabir Suman at SSKM Hospital on Monday. The singer and former Trinamul MP is being treated at the hospital for breathing trouble.
“As soon as we were alerted, strong action was initiated. An SIT has been formed. I have spoken to the police commissioner personally regarding this, three-four times. No excuse will be entertained. Unimaginable audacity, arrogance… and those who helped him, whoever it is, from A to Z, no compromise will be tolerated,” said the chief minister, who heads the home and health departments.
The BJP-led Opposition in Bengal has been going to town over Deb, alleging that he had been hand in glove with the state government and Trinamul.
The BJP and the CPM have been demanding answers on the role of the police and the civic authorities in the matter.
The chief minister said the civil and police administration have been alerted. “Right under the very nose of the police, such offices, such businesses are being run… they should conduct surprise visits every now and then, I think,” she said.
“In this matter, police cannot evade their responsibility. The (Calcutta Municipal) corporation too cannot evade its responsibility…. They have already been alerted.”
She said a database had been prepared of all those who were administered jabs at Deb’s camps. A team of experts set up by the health department is closely monitoring each of them.
“I have spoken to Mimi (Chakraborty). She has a gallbladder problem. That is why she was ill,” Mamata said, apparently ruling out the possibility of the actor and Trinamul MP having fallen ill from side-effects of the shot she received at a camp organised by Deb in Kasba.
She then urged people to exercise greater caution, warning them against being gullible and trusting people simply because they appear presentable.
“Sometimes they forge the chief minister’s signature, sometimes that of the Prime Minister, sometimes that of governments…. Have you forgotten that the terror attack on Parliament (2001) took place using government vehicles, with red beacons?” she said.
The Trinamul chief apparently tried addressing the issue of Deb’s alleged hobnobbing with top-tier leaders and elected representatives of her party and the state administration, which the Opposition has been critical of.
“Suppose I am going somewhere, to somebody’s residence, a person comes up and takes a picture, keeping me in the frame. That does not mean I know that person,” she said, in an oblique reference to numerous photographs that have emerged of Deb with seniors in her party and the administration.
“That is why I often don’t allow (requests for selfies)…. I am sitting in aircraft, sitting far away, somebody is taking pictures and doctoring them. Showing pictures will amount to nothing,” she added.
Asked to respond to the BJP’s demands for a CBI probe, she said: “If the CBI must probe this, it should first probe the countless bodies of the Covid-19 victims that were seen floating in the
Ganga (from Uttar Pradesh), the vaccination exercise from BJP offices in Gujarat, the Shiv Sena’s complaint on land-related irregularities related to the Ram Mandir (in Uttar Pradesh).”