Insufficient food provided to the stranded returnees staying in the quarantine centres in Assam has resulted in attempts to escape by the inmates, as per reports. This has raised questions for the state government, which has been so far praised for their efforts in containing the spread of COVID-19 in comparison to many states in the country.
A total of 33 returnees had escaped the Beswargaon quarantine centre in Kokrajhar on May 28th, 2020 alleging insufficient food was provided to them despite repeated complaints were lodged. Later, they were brought back to the centre by the police.
No bed was provided to the quarantine inmates staying there which compelled them to escape the quarantine centre, the inmates alleged.
Meanwhile, taking serious note in the matter, the district Superintendent of Police, Rakesh Roushan said, “We have apprised the district administration in this regard. Their complaints will be taken seriously.” He further informed that police would take legal action against them.
The ground picture
Of late, several reports of filthy environment, insufficient drinking water facility, poor quality food and other issues in the quarantine centres across the state have come to light. People shared videos and photographs of such issues in social media platform which created a lot of controversies. It has generated a public backlash.
On May 28th, 2020, people staying in the quarantine centre located at the Inland Water Transport campus in Dhubri in Western Assam staged a protest alleging insufficient food were provided to them. There are 410 returnees in the quarantine centre. They had returned from Agartala in Tripura by Shramik Special Train.
Meanwhile, on the same day, around 10-15 youths, who are in a quarantine centre in Lakhimpur in Assam, ventured out from the centre breaking the gate demanding sufficient food and bed to sleep.
On the other hand, recently, a youth, whose sister is in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Sorbhog, quarantine centre in Barpeta district in Assam, shared a video of the filthy environment of the centre. The video shows the toilets are filled with dirty water. “No initiative was taken by the concerned authority despite repeated complaints were made,” the youth told Inside NE on condition of anonymity.
There are around 300 people staying in the JNV, Sorbhog Quarantine centre. Most of them are the returnee from Bengaluru.
The situation grew grim in the state with the return of the stranded people to the state and the unfortunate incidents reported in the quarantine centres. Many raised concern over the possible transmission of the virus at the community level if such incidents occur frequently.
Assam has witnessed a sudden surge in the confirmed COVID-19 cases. The state had registered its first case on March 31st, 2020. The state, which has reported 100 cases on May 17th, 2020, crossed 900 confirmed cases on May 29th, 2020.
Expressing serious concern in this regard, the Kokrajhar district wing of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), general secretary Swmdwn Brahma said, “This kind of incident pose threat to the public health at this time of health emergency. It may help spread of the virus.”
Moreover, saying that the condition of the Beswargaon quarantine centre is very unhygienic, he said, “There is no proper toilet facility and no sufficient drinking water in the centre. How could people stay there?”
Opposition corners government
The Assam Congress president Ripun Bora on May 27th, 2020, while alleging that the environment of the quarantine centres in the state is filthy, said, “Chances of infection is higher in such kind of unhygienic environment.”
Countering Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s argument in one of his recent press conferences that criticism demoralizes the health workers, Bora said, “Congress does not want to demoralize the health workers, doctors and other medical staff. But, that does not mean that the government is beyond scrutiny.”
He further said that the condition of the quarantine centres has proved the government’s mismanagement to contain the spread of COVID-19.
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