COVID-19: Help at hand via ‘Whatsapp groups’; but racketeers thrive too

Hyderabad: When the sudden spike in Coronavirus cases came about and the related problems multiplied, the WhatsApp groups too mushroomed, mostly with an intent to help those in dire need of support.

These groups helped the needy get information on treatment, availability of plasma, oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators and the emergency medicines used for Covid-19 treatment. These are also helping patients get beds in hospitals, food for those in isolation or quarantine, and reach up to newly established centers for patients with minimum symptoms.

All these groups have been adding members regularly as many are coming forward to extend a helping hand to the suffering patients and their families. They have information on their finger-tips.

Predictably, some fraudsters and the black marketers too have become a part of these groups. When someone post a message about an urgent requirement in the group, crooks would immediately catch on it and start sending private messages in spite of the group having common slots for communication. There starts the bargain for emergency products, be it for remdesivir injections, oxygen cylinders or any other item of an emergency nature.

Needless to say, these crooks make a kill out of any deal they are able to strike with the needy in desperation.

Safer Hussain, an IT employee, was in need of remdesivir injections on Tuesday night. There was a serious shortage of this medicine. When a request was posted on the groups, a lot of black marketers rushed in with offer of help. “This will create a tense situation. If we don’t buy from one, there are others in wait. In an emergency situation, we end up spending a lot of time, haggling over rates etc,” he said.

A international school teacher, on condition of anonymity, said, “We teachers of the school created a group in Telegram and added those who wanted to extend some help to the Covid-affected. This group comprises some 8,000 participants. There has been a lot of good work happening in this group. Many have taken up the counseling work, there are people who started providing food for those infected nearby their house. But there are fraudsters too. They have been marketing the medical emergency medicines and equipment at higher rates. One person was selling remdesivir injections for as high as `50,000. There are also such deals on oxygen cylinders,” she said

Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, Rachakonda police commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat said, “Sixteen such networks have been busted. They were into the black marketing of remdesivir injections. Around 70 persons have been arrested. All the leads we got were through the social media networks.”

“In these two days, we arrested a lady doctor who was black marketing these injections. In another case, a reputed hospital’s duty doctor was caught while black marketing remdesivir vials.”

The commissioner appealed to the people that if any lead is available about such rackets, it may be passed on to 9490617111.”


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