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People agitated at being put in quarantine centres despite having valid pass to travel

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Jammu: Despite having a valid official pass to move between Jammu and Kashmir, hundreds of travellers have ended up at administrative quarantine centres set up by the government on the outskirts of the winter capital as part of its efforts to combat the coronavirus.

The move is agitating the people who questioned the logic behind sending them to an institutional quarantine when they are given the passes in extremely exceptional situations, like a medical emergency or joining their duties after completing the formalities due to a lockdown.

One such quarantine centre is set up at Excise and Taxation Training institute in Nagrota, 15 km from Jammu city, where 35 persons, including women and a seven-year-old girl, are anxiously waiting for their sample reports – the outcome of which will decide their future at the sprawling facility.

While a majority of them are expected to be released after their test reports are negative, four labourers from Amritsar in Punjab who had travelled from Srinagar to Jammu in a truck without permission will have to wait till the government decides to send them to their hometown.

“I have been given a pass under medical emergency and diverted to this centre on the pretext of taking samples after almost a day-long hectic travel. If this was to happen, then why did they entertain my request for a pass in the first place. They should have first conducted COVID-19 test before giving me a pass for travel from Srinagar to Jammu,” an agitated Sikh youth from Srinagar said.

The travellers are also concerned about their well-being at the centre.

“I have taken so much precaution and followed the general guidelines and medical advisories religiously since the lockdown came into force about two months ago. I am perturbed since landing at the centre because you don’t know the other people camping here or the fresh arrivals,” Tawseef Ahmad Mir, a resident of Budgam district of central Kashmir, told PTI.

Mir was accompanying his seven-year-old daughter Manhaa Tawseef in a private vehicle to Jammu when he was stopped at Nagrota Toll plaza and diverted to the centre on May 7. Tawseef studies at a school in Jammu and was returning to join online classes.

“I have no complaint about the facilities being provided by the government. My concern is my child who is unaware of the threat perception. I am sharing a 10-bed dormitory with four others from Amritsar and another relative. Luckily for us, these labourers have already tested negative a few days back, which gave me some relief,” he said.

Mir, his daughter and 23 others were taken to GMC hospital in a State Road Transport Corporation bus on Friday without maintaining the much-publicized social distancing and their samples were taken. The samples of nine others were taken a day earlier and all of them are now waiting for their reports.

Three occupants, hailing from Uri township of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, were discharged from the centre on Friday night, five days after their samples were taken which came negative.

“I failed to understand the logic behind shifting us here. Wasn’t it better to allow us to reach our destination and call us for testing on the next available slot which would have saved the government all the expenditure on our lodging, boarding and transportation to and fro the hospital,” a Srinagar resident, who wished not to be named, said.

He said all the commuters moving on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway are being screened and registered at nearly a dozen places on either side with full details including residential address and phone numbers.

“It is simply a waste of public money. We are fortunate that none of the occupants at this centre have tested positive for the coronavirus till date,” he said, alleging that the people with influence are getting away without screening, testing or spending time at the quarantine centres.

Sharing similar views, a Sikh woman said she is praying for an early release from the centre.

“I have had sleepless nights since reaching here two days ago. I want to return to the safety of my house,” she said.

The occupants, however, hailed the incharge of the centre, Sunit Singh, for his cooperative nature and effort to ensure that all facilities are provided to them.

“I am doing my job. I know this is Ramzan and my guests are mostly Muslim. I am making sure they get fruit and juice at the dusk for breaking their fast,” Singh, a tehsildar, said adding the centre was activated early this week and so far nearly 100 people have been accommodated here.

For those fasting, Singh said he delivers extra meals to them at dinner time so that they can use it for ‘Sehri’ to start their fast.  He himself distributes water bottles, toothbrushes and toothpaste among them.

Sweeper Subash Chander is the busiest person at the centre and keeps the place clean and safe.

However, not everyone at quarantine centres is lucky as complaints of lack of facilities and mismanagement are pouring from various centres across Jammu region.

Several videos, purportedly showing hundreds of labourers brought from outside Jammu and Kashmir and put up at Dalwas, Dharmound and Mangat-Khari quarantine centres in Ramban district, are being provided prepared meals and tea in polythene bags.

These people are agitated over the treatment and demand that they be allowed to go to their homes if the government is not in a position to give them proper lodging and boarding facilities.

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