Even as the Coronavirus cases in India are rising profusely and the ministers should lead by example so that people follow suit in maintaining COVID-19 guidelines, rather Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers DV Sadananda Gowda was at the centre of a controversy on Monday after he did not undergo quarantine on arrival from Delhi by a flight in Bengaluru. He justified his action saying he came under the exempted category being in-charge of pharmaceuticals, an essential sector.
The 67-year-old minister was defended by the Karnataka government. It said that the Centre had issued orders exempting such people handling essential sectors from quarantine norms.
The state government also made public a notice issued on May 23 to the standard operating procedure (SOP) for inter-state passengers, exempting ministers of union and state government, and officers on official duty from quarantining.
The BJP MP from Bengaluru North DV Sadananda Gowda after arriving by a commercial flight, did not go for the mandatory institutional quarantine. He just sat in his official car and left from the airport.
The Karnataka government has made it mandatory for air travellers coming from high COVID-19 prevalence states to undergo quarantine after arriving by a commercial flight, services of which resumed after two months.
The (SOP) issued by the government on May 22 mandates passengers coming from high COVID-19 prevalence states- Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh- to go for paid institutional quarantine for a period of seven days.
This incident angered several people and they took to social media accusing him of violating norms while others saying rules are only meant for citizens and not for VVIPS, including ministers.
The Union Minister while defending himself said that he is under the exempted clause and hence has been allowed to proceed.
“…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,” the Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister told reporters.
“I come under the exemption clause and I have the exemptions…Arogya Setu App on my phone also shows I”m safe. After checking every things we conduct ourselves in a responsible way. Modi (PM Narendra Modi) also wont spare us, if we move around according to our wish,” he added.
State Minister S Suresh Kumar, who is spokesperson for COVID-19 in Karnataka, said, “He (Gowda) is exempted in his capacity as a minister handling pharma sector… orders have already been issued by the central government (in this regard).”
The May 23 addendum to the SOP, made public hours after the controversy involving Gowda, says, “The ministers of Union Government or state governments or officers on their official duty who are travelling across states will be exempted from requirements of quarantine…”
According to the SOP, at the end of the seven days, the passengers coming from these six states would be sent to home quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19.
He later held a meeting with state Ministers and officials, also said his body temperature was checked before he left the airport and he has not come in contact with any one and there were only 11 passengers in the flight.
The senior BJP leader also said though he could have opted for a special flight much before, he waited for domestic flights to resume. “I am not a person who misuses things,” he said.
In Karnataka, those coming from other states have been asked to follow 14 days of home quarantine. While in some special cases involving businessmen coming for urgent work, they are permitted without quarantine if they produce negative test report of COVID-19 from ICMR approved laboratory obtained within two days ahead of their travel date.