K’taka Govt Sends Back Returnees Unable to Pay For Quarantine
Many of the returnees were unaware of the mandatory quarantine and had been informed that they can isolate at home.
As many as 19 passengers who had arrived in Bengaluru on Thursday, 14 May, on an express train from New Delhi left the city the same evening, travelling in an additional coach added to a scheduled train. This happened after irate passengers who reached Bengaluru in the morning refused to enter mandatory institutional quarantine as per latest government orders, claiming that they were not informed about the change in protocol.
Many residents of Karnataka returning to the state from abroad and other parts of the country were in for a rude shock to find out after arrival that they were going to be sent to mandatory quarantine in government-designated hotels across the state.
While many of them said that they had no knowledge of the change in rules, others claimed that they were denied their choice of free accommodation, making it difficult for them to shell out the thousands of rupees required to stay in the quarantine facility.
‘Did Not Know About Institutional Quarantine’
Padmini (name changed), who arrived at the Bengaluru city railway station on Thursday, 14 May, along with her aged parents, was told that they would not be allowed to go home, even though the e-pass she procured for inter-district travel from Telangana clearly states that they would be sent to home quarantine upon their arrival in Bengaluru.
Padmini said that even though she had chosen a budget hotel option at the station, she was taken to a hotel where the management demanded Rs 3,600 for a room.
“When we booked on IRCTC, they could have informed us about the mandatory quarantine. Earlier we were planning to come by road but decided train would be better for my parents who are very both in their late 70s. Now, when we reach here, we were shocked to be told to choose from paid quarantine options in hotels. They even tried to make us take two rooms, but I insisted that i will stay with my parents. If we knew this would happen, we would not have come back. I don’t have the money to pay such a high amounts,” said the resident of Guttahalli, who is currently staying in a lodge near the railway station.
Claiming that her aged parents are fully dependent on her, she said that they should have been allowed to quarantine at their home which is empty.
“There was a lot of confusion at the railway station. We came prepared to go home but they had buses waiting. I have not had any proper earnings for 3 months. How are we expected to pay? We also don’t want to go for the free facility, because my parents are old and who knows what state it will be in,” she said.
‘Told us Free Facilities not Available’
In Mangaluru, a group of travellers, including multiple pregnant women and their kids, who flew in from Dubai on 12 May, were in for a reportedly hellish experience, as authorities made them wait for hours at the international airport, ultimately sending them to paid accommodation, even as they protested they could not pay the required amount.
Mansur Uchil, a resident of Mangaluru who had gone to Dubai in search of work, said that authorities treated them callously, refusing to provide even water and basic refreshments as they were stranded at the airport through the night. He also said that they had received a list of possible options for staying when they were departing from Dubai, and had informed authorities to put them up in the free facility.
“We were exhausted and asked for some refreshments. There are pregnant women with us. Even then, they did not care. When we asked them to send us to the free facility, they said the list we had been given was fake. There was nobody to guide us. Under duress, we had to go to the paid accommodation and are now paying Rs 1250 plus food, even though it is Ramzan time and we will barely eat,” said the 37-year-old.
Tania (name changed), 2 months pregnant, travelled with her 2 cousins from Dubai, leaving their husbands behind.
“We spent Rs 17,000 for one ticket and came because it was getting too expensive to survive there. Now, when we come here, they are demanding money from us. We have all been certified fit to travel and have cleared blood tests in Dubai, that is why we were allowed to fly. We all have homes here, but are being forced to stay in a hotel.”Tania, 22 years old.
‘Worried About What Will Happen Once we Land’
Radheshyam, a native of Bengaluru who has been living in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and is hoping to get a ticket on a flight leaving on 19 May, said that he was worried about what type of accommodation will even be available once he reaches.
“People who flew from KL to Trichy, Kochi and other places, were allowed to stay in home quarantine provided they could prove they could self-isolate in a separate room away from their families. Here, I have a fully vacant house in Bengaluru and I am being told that I will have to pay several thousand rupees to stay in a hotel. We don’t know what the facilities are like, we don’t know which type of quarantine facility will even be available anymore with so many people entering Karnataka daily. Many of us have resigned or lost jobs, and we cannot afford to pay so much,” he said.
Adding that even a single person’s stay for 14 days would amount to nearly Rs 17,000, he said that this money could be used by families for buying rations, paying utilities for a month, if not more.
“How do we know the government facility is more secure? What if we contract some other disease there? This simply looks like the government is out to make money off our troubles,” he said.
‘Decision Taken to Safeguard Your Own Safety’
While the rates for mandatory quarantine range from district to district, on average the the cost for a budget hotel is Rs 1250 per day, excluding meals, and goes up to Rs 4,100 for a high-end 5-star hotel room. Passengers also have the option of availing free stay in government hostels, kalyana mantapas and schools.
The government has since amended its order for international travellers and inter-state travellers, stating that children under the age of 10 years, pregnant women, citizens aged 80 years and above, as well as those with terminal illnesses, would be exempt from quarantine. No such relaxations have been announced for inter-state travellers.
According to a state government order passed on 11 May, all persons travelling to Karnataka from other states, barring Goa, would have to go through mandatory quarantine for 14 days, and would not be permitted to return home, even if they are asymptomatic. This includes rail and road travel.
Similar rules are in place for international travellers too, causing chaos and confusion as travellers claimed they were being forced to pay for high-end rooms, even when they reportedly couldn’t afford it.
Speaking to The Quint, medical education minister Dr Sudhakar said that the travellers were free to stay back wherever they were if they did not wish to stay in institutional quarantine. ”Right now, we want to protect the state. We can’t risk the well-being of crores of people by helping the people who are coming now. We are not forcing them to stay there or return here. They have many options to choose from,” he said.
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