Union Minister 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 Bengauru. The 67-year-old minister defended it, saying he came under the exempted category being in-charge of pharmaceuticals, an essential sector.
The Karnataka government came to his defence and said the centre had issued orders exempting such people handling essential sectors from quarantine norms.
It 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.
Bengaluru North MP DV Sadananda Gowda drove off in an official car without undergoing institutional quarantine - as mandated by the Karnataka government for air travellers coming from high COVID-19 prevalence states - after arriving by a commercial flight, services of which resumed after two months.
Several people 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 (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.
Defending himself, Mr Gowda 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 Mr Gowda, said: "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..."
Mr Gowda, who later held a meeting with state Ministers and officials, also said his body temperature was checked before he left the airport.
The Minister said 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.
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.
Those coming from other states have been asked to follow 14 days of home quarantine.
In 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.