When his phone buzzed at 7:27 pm last Monday, one of the last things Rajat Dangre expected to see was a message from the government saying his 13-year-old son with disabilities had received his COVID-19 shot. Because, at least officially, India is yet to begin vaccinating those under 18.
But the message was hard to misread: Thirteen-year-old Vedant Dangre, who lives in the Housing Board Colony of Tila Jamalpura in Bhopal, had been vaccinated. His age in the message - 56.
"On 21st (June), at 7.27 pm, I received a message saying Vedant is vaccinated. He is just 13 years old. I tried to raise a complaint but it was of no use. When I downloaded the certificate using the link, I was shocked to find out they have used his documents which I submitted a few days back to the Municipal corporation for his pension (as a person with special needs)," Rajat Dangre said.
Madhya Pradesh set a national record on June 21 by administering 17.42 Lakh COVID-19 vaccines but now, a growing number of "beneficiaries" in the state are coming out with allegations that they received vaccination certificates without getting even a single dose of the vaccine.
On the same day as Vedant, Chainendra Pandey from Satna, received three messages within five minutes saying three people he did not know - Katikram, Kalindri and Chandan - had been vaccinated. Shocked and confused, Chainendra failed to understand why he received the messages.
"Three messages within five minutes. Just the name is different. I have not got any vaccine to date," the 52-year-old told NDTV.
Nuzhat Salim, 46, who lives in PGBT College Road in Bhopal, also got the message of getting the vaccine on June 21. She is not a pensioner but pension documents are recorded as proof of her identity.
"I got a message on 21st night at 10:57 that 'you have got the vaccine' while I am not vaccinated yet, I am worried about how I will get the vaccine now," she said.
Around 300 km away in Ratlam, tax consultant Prem Pandya had a similar conundrum. He booked a vaccination slot but was unable to keep the date. However, that did not keep him from getting a message on the same day saying he had got the vaccine.
"Message came at 4 pm that you have got the vaccine even though I did not go. How did I get the vaccine? I wrote about it on Facebook. Then the next day, I got a call saying please come and that is how I got the vaccine," he said.
When asked about the anomalies, the government's official response was dismissive. "There is no such problem. I don't know from where you got the information. I am hearing this for the first time. If anything comes up, we will get it investigated," Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang told NDTV.
The opposition Congress party, however, slammed the government and said the cases clearly showed how the data was being fudged to claim credit for record-breaking vaccinations.
"New figures are coming out every day. The vaccine was given to a 13-year-old child and a dead person. Forty-seven villages in Betul did not get the vaccine. This vaccine record is nothing but a PR gimmick," Congress spokesperson Narendra Saluja said.
Since the BJP-led central government rolled out its new vaccination policy, taking back control of buying and giving out doses on June 21, BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh has been registering record-breaking vaccination numbers.
On 21st, Madhya Pradesh said it had vaccinated 17.42 lakh people. On the 23rd, it was 11.43 lakh, on 24th it was 7.05 lakh, and on 26th, it was 9.64 lakh.
This was a dramatic surge from the days preceding when the state registered just 4,098 vaccinations on June 20, 24,700 on June 19 and only 11,742 on June 18.
As the Congress raised questions about why the numbers shrunk before the relaunched vaccination drive, the government responded by saying that they only vaccinate on Monday, Wednesday through Thursday and Saturday.
Tuesdays and Fridays are reserved for other immunization drives and on Sunday there are no vaccinations at government centres, they said. That argument, however, fails to explain the low numbers for Saturday.