The Delhi Police on Friday questioned Srinivas BV, the national president of the youth wing of Congress, in connection with alleged “illegal distribution” of Covid-19 relief material, reported The Indian Express, citing the police.

Srinivas, a cricketer-turned-politician, has been helping in the distribution of coronavirus relief material, including oxygen cylinders and medicines, through a war room inside the Youth Congress office in Delhi. This war room also monitors and responds to tweets seeking help. In 2020, the Youth Congress chief set up a network of volunteers under “SOS IYC”.

The politician’s relief work gained global attention after a few foreign embassies in Delhi tagged him on Twitter, requesting help with Covid-19 material.

On Friday, the police interrogated Srinivas on the basis of a petition that claimed politicians from various parties were illegally distributing medicines used for the treatment of the coronavirus, reported NDTV.

“On a writ filed by Deepak Singh about politicians involved in illegal distribution of Covid medicines etc, the honourable Delhi High Court has directed Delhi Police to conduct an enquiry,” the police said, according to the news channel. “In compliance of Delhi High Court’s order, Delhi Police is conducting an enquiry on several politicians including Srinivas. Today [Friday], Crime Branch team had gone to IYC’s [Indian Youth Congress’] office to record the statement of Srinivas.”

The Youth Congress chief told NDTV that he had not done anything wrong and asserted that his team will not be scared of any petitions if their efforts can help save lives.

“We will not stop our work, we are not scared,” he said.

Srinivas said that his team answered all the questions of officials of the Delhi Police’s Crime Branch that visited the Youth Congress office, according to ANI. “They wanted to know the details of how we are helping people,” he said.

The petition

Besides Srinivas, the petition also names politicians such as Bharatiya Janata Party MPs Gautam Gambhir and Sujay Vikhe, Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Mukesh Sharma. Deepak Singh, chairperson of non-profit organisation Hrudaya Foundation, filed the plea.

On Tuesday, the police had also questioned Aam Aadmi Party MLA Dilip Pandey in connection with the plea. In his petition before the Delhi High Court, Singh had sought a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the alleged “medical mafia-politicians nexus” and the distribution of medicines by politicians.

However, the High court had refused to entertain the request on May 4. It had asked the petitioner to approach Delhi Police Commissioner Sachidanand Shrivastava first. The High Court had also directed the Delhi government to file a status report within a week and listed the case for hearing on May 17.

‘Is helping people a crime?’ asks Congress

After the police questioned Srinivas, the Congress hit out at the Centre, asking if helping people was a crime.

“Is helping people with oxygen a crime?” asked Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala in a video posted on Twitter. “Is helping dying patients with remdesivir a crime? Is helping patients with medicines a crime? Is it a crime to arrange for beds and ventilators? Is providing food to the kin of Covid-affected patients and ambulance drivers a crime?”

Surjewala also held Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah responsible for the questioning of the Youth Congress chief. He claimed that Modi and Shah thought helping people during the pandemic was a crime.

“That is why Amit Shah and Narendra Modiji have sent the Delhi Police to the Youth Congress office today to question Srinivas and other party workers,” he said. “Is it a sin to provide the necessary help to the people that the Modi government could not help them with?”

Surjewala added that the members of the Congress party, under the leadership of party chief Sonia Gandhi and leader Rahul Gandhi, will continue to offer help even if they were arrested.

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