BENGALURU: Was Union Minister for Chemical and Fertilisers DV Sadananda Gowda exempted from quarantining himself after arriving in the city?
The question arose after the minister who arrived in Bengaluru from New Delhi on a flight on Monday exempted himself from mandatory quarantine and drove away in his car even as his co-passengers were sent to institutional quarantine.
Later in the day, the minister even chaired a meeting at Vidhana Soudha where a host of officials as well as Deputy Chief Minister Dr CN Ashwathnarayana and Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar were present.
Karnataka government's SOP for interstate travellers dated May 22, 2020, mandates seven-day institutional quarantine of people returning from high-risk States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, New Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh followed by home quarantine of another seven days.
Gowda, who returned from Delhi, claimed that he was exempted from institutional quarantine since he headed the pharma ministry.
"I am heading the pharma ministry. We are responsible for providing medicines for every State. I come under exemptions in the SOP - pharma is excluded at Centre and State level," DV Sadananda Gowda told the media.
No such exemption was mentioned in the SOP dated May 22 issued by the State government.
Following the furore on Monday, however, the health department released an 'addendum' to its May 22 SOP.
"The ministers of Union Government or State Government 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 in para 4(e)," the addendum said.
Although the addendum is dated May 23, it was made public only on Monday evening after the controversy surrounding Gowda.
The Karnataka health department, Health Minister B Sriramulu, Pankaj Kumar Pandey, Commissioner for Health and Family Welfare have been lightning fast in sharing government SOPs, guidelines, orders and even the COVID-19 bulletin, but this addendum was released only on Monday evening - two days after the date it was signed.
The addendum exempts Gowda from institutional quarantine. Para 4 that deals with passengers travelling by road/rail/air in section E says, "GOI has advised that all State/UTs shall allow the interstate movement of medical professionals, nurses and para-medical staff, sanitation personnel and ambulances without any restriction. Therefore, inter-state movement of above professionals with only home quarantine is allowed."
Going by this guideline, Sadananda Gowda should have been in mandatory home quarantine. The minister, however, chaired a meeting at Vidhana Soudha barely hours after he landed from Delhi.
The addendum by Karnataka government came after Minister Suresh Kumar said the MHA orders exempted Gowda.
"He is exempted in his capacity as a minister handling pharma sector. It has been issued by the central government," he said.