Pune: Case Filed Against Crowdfunding Platforms for Allegedly Raising Funds After Beneficiary’s Death

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Bhosari, 28th August 2023: The Pimpri-Chinchwad Police have taken stringent action against three crowdfunding platforms and their proprietors for persistently soliciting funds under the guise of assisting a beneficiary who had tragically passed away. The police have raised concerns that the amassed sum could potentially be substantial, possibly reaching several crore rupees.

The platforms in question, namely Impact Guru, Ketto, and Milap, have come under scrutiny, and their respective owners—Piyush Jain, Varun Sheth, and Mayukh Chaudhary—are facing legal repercussions. A case has been officially registered against them and the other directors of these entities at the Bhosari police station on August 25.

The case revolves around the crowdfunding campaign initiated for the medical treatment of Vedika Shinde, an eight-month-old infant from Bhosari afflicted by Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA type-1), a rare genetic ailment requiring an exorbitant remedial injection that was beyond the means of her parents.

Employing crowdfunding platforms, the family successfully garnered a staggering sum of Rs 16 crore to procure a single-dose gene replacement therapy injection—ZOLGENSMA—for their child. The administration of this therapy at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital on June 15, 2021, held the promise of enhancing Vedika’s breathing and feeding abilities.

Regrettably, the child’s life was cut short on August 1, 2021. However, the crowdfunding platforms continued their solicitation efforts, prompting continued monetary contributions in the name of Vedika.

The sequence of events saw the parents learn of their daughter’s rare genetic disorder a few months after her birth. Medical professionals informed them of Vedika’s diagnosis with SMA-Type-1, an acute condition necessitating an American-sourced injection. Opting for crowdfunding as a means to raise funds, the family launched a campaign under Vedika’s name across social media platforms. The response was immediate and considerable, with numerous individuals contributing to the cause.

Simultaneously, the crowdfunding platforms also initiated their own campaigns, utilizing Vedika’s imagery to attract international assistance.
Alarmingly, the police have reason to believe that the platforms persisted in their fundraising endeavors even after becoming aware of Vedika’s passing.

“The accused were collecting money in the name of deceased Vedika Shinde. Upon noticing this, the Special Inspector General of Police for Women and Child Crime Prevention Department ordered the registration of a case. Subsequently, a case was filed. Due to the magnitude of the offense, the investigation has been transferred to the Financial Offenses Branch,” said Bhaskar Jadhav, Senior Inspector at the Bhosari police station.

Authorities suspect that this situation may potentially unravel a significant financial scam. Additionally, it has come to light that the implicated companies have violated the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015 by utilizing photographs of children for fundraising purposes.

The law stipulates that Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 prohibits the dissemination of photographs or details of children in need of care or protection. By this law’s standards, acquiring funds through children’s images is deemed improper. Furthermore, such crowdfunding activities are categorized as begging under this legal framework.

Given the suspected international involvement in fundraising efforts for Vedika, the Economic Offences Wing is poised to delve deeply into the case to unveil the full extent of the situation.

UPDATE: After the news report was published, Milaap has given following details:

  • On March 3rd, 2021, Mr. Sourabh Shinde initiated a fundraising campaign on behalf of his daughter, Vedika, with the goal of raising INR 16 crores (USD 2.1 million) for her treatment. In our platform, the final donation was received on June 21st, 2021.
  • The treatment injection was administered to Vedika, with the funds raised, in Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune in mid June. An update was provided to our donors on this important step.
  • Tragically, Vedika’s health deteriorated, and she passed away on August 1st. On August 2nd 2021, we promptly communicated this heartbreaking news to all donors, a standard procedure for all fundraisers.
  • On August 14th 2021, Vedika’s parents also expressed their gratitude to donors through a final update, acknowledging their collective effort.
  • All the updates are here in the fundraiser page: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-vedika-shinde. Milaap shall fully cooperate with relevant authorities to provide the requisite details for any ongoing investigation

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