As India braces for the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, some Indians have come up with a jugaad—the colloquial term for a hack—that might prove to be a menace for the country.
On April 1, the government in the western state of Gujarat shut down a couple of labs after it found that they were selling fake Covid-19 negative test results. This is not an isolated event. There have been several incidents where Indians have fudged reports—sometimes on their own—to dodge quarantine rules or travel freely without taking an RT-PCR test that several states have made mandatory.
A fake negative report from a pathological lab costs a mere Rs2,000 ($26.8) in Noida on the outskirts of Delhi, according to a person who enquired for it and did not want to be named.
Fake it till you make it
People are using fake Covid-19 reports for different reasons.
In Haryana’s Rohtak, for instance, several students used fake positive reports to avoid taking exams. “Many students cited medical reasons, including Covid, for taking online exams. Some of the Covid-positive reports seemed doubtful. Hence, these were rejected,” Yudhvir Singh, director of the University Institute of Engineering and Technology, told the media on April 5. “Strict action will be taken against students who have submitted forged certificates.”
At Mumbai airport, some flyers were found to be using fake negative reports to ensure they were allowed to take flights. “We got to know that some passengers take a Covid-19 negative report from a relative. Then with the help of Photoshop, they change the dates, names, and PAN numbers. Within five minutes, they are able to create fake RT-PCR reports,” a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation official told Hindustan Times in March.
A Mumbai couple was booked by authorities in March for forging Covid-19 test reports. The duo was flying to Jaipur along with their child. All three were infected but had forged their reports, as per officials. The couple could now face up to two years in jail and a hefty fine.
Last year in December, a report by India Today claimed that there was a racket of a group of people providing fake covid results at some of the state-run hospitals across the country.
Covid-19 test results on the dark web
Earlier in March, a report by Check Point Research claimed that forged negative covid test results and fake vaccine certificates were being offered on the darknet and various hacking forums. These fake documents were reportedly being offered for as low as Rs1,800 to people seeking to board flights, cross borders, attend events, or start new jobs.
“Multiple vaccine variants are also available for sale: AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinopharm, and Johnson & Johnson, with prices ranging between $500 and $1000 per dose,” the report noted.