Senior Andhra TDP lawmaker Atchen Naidu arrested by ACB authorities in ESI scam

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Hyderabad: Kinjarapu Atchen Naidu, a senior Telugu Desam Party (TDP) lawmaker from Andhra Pradesh (AP), was arrested on Friday early morning by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) authorities in connection with an Employment State Insurance (EIS)-linked alleged scam that occurred in 2016, when N Chandrababu Naidu was the AP chief minister.

The ACB officials took Atchen Naidu, who is also the deputy floor leader of the TDP in AP assembly, into custody on Friday early morning after he was arrested from his native village, Nimmada, in Srikakulam district.

He would be produced in the ACB special court at Vijayawada later in the day, said an official familiar with the development.

The ACB authorities have also arrested former Insurance Medical Services (IMS) director Dr. CK Ramesh Kumar in Tirupati a few days ago. Atchen Naidu was arrested on the basis of Dr. Kumar’s confession and available evidence.

Earlier in February, AP’s vigilance and enforcement department had unearthed the scam in the EIS-affiliated hospitals, dispensaries, and diagnostic centres after an inquiry was ordered by CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government.

The vigilance authorities have revealed that Atchen Naidu, who served as the labour minister in the N Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP government, had directed Dr. Kumar in writing in 2016 to issue work orders to a company called Tele Health Services Pvt Ltd while bypassing the laid-down norms such as inviting open tenders for a contract.

The contract involved providing toll-free services to patients under the ESI scheme for assistance regarding pending medical reimbursements and referral bills.

IMS had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Tele Health Services Pvt Ltd and agreed to pay Rs 1.80 per month for each internet protocol (IP) address, irrespective of the number of calls attended.

IMS also allegedly signed another MoU with the same company, authorising it to conduct electrocardiogram (ECG) tests for patients under the ESI scheme.

The company was to get Rs 480 for each ECG, according to the MoU, even though the same test at a hospital costs no more than Rs 200.

The probe has revealed that the service-provider claimed bills by submitting call logs of Telangana IPs, which were not verified by the authorities concerned.

The private company violated other stipulated norms such as it availed of the services of post-graduate diploma-holder clinical cardiologists, instead of specialists, who hold a degree in Doctorate of Medicine (DM).

Dr. Kumar and another director, Dr. G Vijaya Kumar, was found to have paid Rs 4.15 crore and Rs 3.81 crore to the company for its toll-free service and ECG tests, respectively.

Atchen Naidu pleaded innocence after the vigilance inquiry report came to light, and argued that he had only followed the Central government’s order, which had urged all states to offer telehealth services for all patients covered under the ESI scheme. He cited the example of the Telangana government, which, too, followed a similar procedure.

TDP president and former AP CM N Chandrababu Naidu described Atchen Naidu’s arrest as kidnap and an attack on the weaker sections of the society.

He issued a statement, alleging over 100 police personnel had raided the residence of Atchen Naidu late at night on Thursday, and whisked him away without any explanation.

“No notice was served on him by the police before he was taken away,” Naidu alleged.

He further alleged that the police deprived Atchen Naidu of taking his regular pills and his mobile phone was switched off in a bid to ensure that his family members cannot contact him.

The TDP chief demanded that AP CM Reddy, home minister and the director-general of police (DGP) should give an explanation for Atchen Naidu’s “abduction”.

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