Bengaluru: The Prime Minister’s Office has pulled up Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda for giving quarantine a miss and claiming he was exempt from it when he arrived in Bengaluru from New Delhi Monday. As a result, the minister has now placed himself in home quarantine.
Gowda told ThePrint over phone that he had received a call from the PMO, asking him to put himself under home quarantine according to the rules. But he insisted that the issue was being blown out of proportion and that he had done nothing to violate any law.
“I am pained by what is happening. Unfortunately, I have also received a call from the PMO and I have now placed myself under home quarantine,” he told ThePrint.
He also put up social media posts on the issue, and pointed out that the Karnataka government had changed its rules on 23 May to allow Union ministers not to undergo quarantine.
Happy to share the information that I again underwent COVID19 test, which is found to be negative.
Appealing the fellow citizens to take enough precautions to avoid infections. Please wear face mask & maintain social distancing.
Please help us to help you.
— Sadananda Gowda (@DVSadanandGowda) May 26, 2020
No Lockdown norms flouted; Tested Negative for COVID19 Pained at an attempt made to make my official visit to…
However, the opposition Congress has alleged that the BJP government in Karnataka has tweaked the rules to cover up Gowda’s “mistake” after the fact.
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Upon arriving in Bengaluru on a domestic flight Monday, Gowda, also the Bengaluru North MP, had gone straight to the state administrative building Vikas Soudha and chaired a meeting of the Karnataka Covid team, which was attended by Deputy CM Ashwath Narayan, ministers Dr K. Sudhakar and S.T. Somashekhar, among others.
He claimed he was exempt from quarantine as his job as the minister for pharmaceuticals was categorised as an “essential service”.
“I come under the exemption clause and I have the exemptions… The Aarogya Setu app on my phone also shows I’m safe. After checking everything, we conduct ourselves in a responsible way. Modi also won’t spare us, if we move around according to our wishes,” he had told the media when asked how he had skipped quarantine.
“You need people to work for the control (of Covid-19) right? If you say no one should come out can you stop this? As a pharma minister, I need to check production, supplies, and ensure it reaches last point, it is my responsibility,” he had said.
22 May SOP and addendum
Another defence Gowda gave was that on 23 May, the Karnataka health department had issued an addendum to its 22 May standard operating procedure for inter-state travellers, under which he was allowed to give quarantine a miss.
The 22 May SOP guidelines read: “Every passenger arriving in the state by domestic flights from Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan is required to spend the first week in institutional quarantine and the second week in home quarantine.”
The guidelines added that the central government had advised all states and union territories to “allow interstate movement of medical professionals, nurses, para-medical staff, sanitation personnel and ambulances without any restriction. Therefore, interstate movement of above professionals with only home quarantine is allowed”.
This SOP did not state that those under essential services are exempted from quarantine.
However, the 23 May addendum stated: “Ministers of Union government or state governments or officers on their official duty who are travelling across states will be exempted from the requirement of quarantine as has been done for health professionals and others.”
Congress’ allegation of cover-up
The addendum began being circulated after the controversy over Gowda had broken out, and the Congress has alleged that it was “tweaked to cover up his mistake”.
VVIP Culture of BJP exposed again. One rule for citizens & another rule for BJP leaders
— Srivatsa (@srivatsayb) May 25, 2020
Congress spokesperson and former Karnataka state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao told ThePrint: “Clearly, this document is an afterthought that is being used to hide the minister’s mistake. Instead of pulling him up and sending out a no-tolerance message, Karnataka’s BJP government issues another document to cover up Sadananda Gowda’s mistakes. What kind of example is the Union minister setting?”
Gundu Rao added: “He is not a frontline worker or a doctor who is treating Covid patients that he needs to be present on location. He can coordinate from his home till his quarantine period is over through video conferencing etc. Why risk so many people?”
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