Bed allotment scam: Emergency response hit by attrition from war rooms

Staff, who reported for work, say some callers are abusive

May 07, 2021 07:50 am | Updated 01:04 pm IST

MP from Bengaluru South Tejasvi Surya and three BJP MLAs had recently carried out an expose of alleged bed-blocking by staff in the south zone war room.

MP from Bengaluru South Tejasvi Surya and three BJP MLAs had recently carried out an expose of alleged bed-blocking by staff in the south zone war room.

Emergency response in the city was hit following search operations by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) police, which is investigating the bed allotment scam. A day after police teams raided all eight zonal war rooms, seized data storage devices and questioned staff, a large attrition rate was reported.

“Many are youth taken on contractual basis to work in these call centres. The police have not harassed anyone, but these youngsters and their parents are scared. Many have stopped coming, some have quit. We are struggling to keep pace with emergency calls. We hope the situation will return to normal in two days. We are also counselling those working in war rooms,” said a senior civic official, overseeing war rooms in the city.

The worst hit was the South zone war room, which saw nearly 40% absenteeism on Thursday. MP Tejasvi Surya and three BJP MLAs had stormed into the war room on Tuesday, and live-streamed the expose. Of the 206 employees working there, they targeted 17 Muslims, who have since been removed from war room duty.

Vinay (name changed), working in the South zone war room, said it had become tough answering emergency calls. “If we say there is no ICU bed, people ask our names to find out which community we belong to. Some offer us money for a bed, others abuse us,” he said.

Vinay recounted two cases in the last two weeks where parents of those working in the war room turned critical with COVID-19 and they couldn’t find a bed. “One of them died,” he said. “There is a real shortage of beds. But now people are not believing us when we tell them that beds are occupied,” he said.

In a bid to expose how Tejasvi Surya targeted only the 17 Muslim employees of the total workforce of 206, the entire list of employees was published by several individuals on Twitter and Facebook, triggering off another round of abusive calls to personal numbers. Women in the war room also allegedly face sexual harassment from callers.

Touts took 10% commission

Meanwhile, CCB officials have formed eight special teams to analyse the data recovered from the zonal war rooms. “We are gathering data from all the war rooms to ascertain how and to whom beds had been allotted to,” said Sandeep Patil, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime).

Two doctors – one from the Bomanhalli war room and the other from South zone – have been arrested along with two other members of the staff. The hospitals in which the accused have blocked beds are also under investigation. Police custody of the four accused has been extended.

Social worker Nethravati and her nephew Rohith who had been arrested in a related scam, allegedly claimed to taking a 10% commission on every bed sold. “They gave the rest of the money to their contacts in the war room,” said a senior police official.

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