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Gujarat: Forced to go for paid quarantine, say foreign returnees

Written by Aditi Raja
| Vadodara |

Published: June 8, 2020 10:37:41 pm

Parth Agarwal, a student from Vadodara who came back from Australia on May 25 and chose a paid quarantine in Anand, said that despite charging Rs 2,500 per day and an additional Rs 300 per day for the meal, food wasn’t up to the mark. (Representational)

Several people who returned to Gujarat from foreign countries since the last week of May alleged that they were forced to go for paid quarantine, made to stay more than the stipulated seven days and also given inadequate meals.

Vadodara resident Vrunda Patel, 23, landed in Ahmedabad from Ukraine on May 30. Vrunda, a medical student in the Chernivtsi University, said she was not given an option to opt for the free government quarantine. Vrunda’s father, Paresh Patel, said that the local administration insisted on keeping her quarantined for 10 days as per the earlier protocol of the state government. “On June 6, we went over to the resort and asked the officials to discharge our daughter. They were reluctant but when we cited the directive of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs about the 7-day quarantine, they finally gave in.”

Patel said that the cost of the facility was weighing heavily on the family as they had already borrowed money for Vrunda’s repatriation flight ticket.

Patel said, “I have already taken an expensive loan for her education. When the repatriation flights were announced, I had no money to pay for the one-way ticket, which was more expensive than the regular two-way fare from Ukraine to Ahmedabad. So I borrowed money for her ticket and asked her to choose the free government quarantine on arrival. But when she called me from the airport and said that they had not given her a choice and had just ushered the group of students into a bus to take them to an expensive resort in Anand district, I was extremely stressed.”

Patel said the family had to borrow another Rs 14,000 to pay for the quarantine facility. “…The government must think about the financial capability of passengers before making decisions on their behalf,” said Patel.

Parth Agarwal, a student from Vadodara who came back from Australia on May 25 and chose a paid quarantine in Anand, said that despite charging Rs 2,500 per day and an additional Rs 300 per day for the meal, food wasn’t up to the mark.

“They just served one small portion of dry sabji with about three mini rotis for one meal. This is not sufficient for any normal eater nor is it a wholesome meal. I was willing to pay for more food. But the resort refused to help by telling me that their kitchens were closed and ordering food from outside was prohibited,” Agarwal said.

Jawad Vohra, a 31-year-old businessman from Panigate in Vadodara, is currently in paid quarantine at a four-star hotel in Vapi. Vohra, along with 14 other residents of Gujarat arrived in Mumbai from Thailand on Friday. He said that the group of 14 paid Rs 36,000 transport charges from airport to Vapi.

“There is clear loot. A private bus agent at the Mumbai airport charged us Rs 32,000 for a mini bus ride to Bhilad on the Gujarat-Maharshtra border. From there, the officers took close to Rs 4,000 to bring us into Gujarat. While 11 people opted for the free quarantine at a girls’ hostel in Valsad, three of us came to this paid hotel in Vapi…” Vohra said.

Another resident of Anand who quarantined himself in Kheda on his arrival from UK earlier in May said he was not given the choice of free quarantine at the airport. “They told me that the free facility was full and I would have to stay in a resort. My father borrowed money from my uncle to pay for the facility. I stayed there for about 12 days and the bill was almost Rs 25,000. This pandemic has eaten into our resources,” the 22-year-old student said.

Mamta Verma, Secretary to Government, Industries and Mines Department (Tourism, Devsthanam Management, Civil Aviation & Pilgrimage), who is overseeing the quarantine protocols, told this newspaper that there may have been hiccups but the government was “doing its best” to make facilities available for the people. Verma said, “These are unprecedented times. Gujarat is among the few states in the country that are making provisions for free quarantine facilities but even the people have to understand that there may be issues about capacity and therefore some difficulties. No one has been forced to any paid facility.”

Regarding the protocol, Verma said, “Initially, the quarantine was for 14 days, then the state government notified 10 days and subsequently 7 days in line with the MHA decision. For almost a week, we have been only insisting on 7 days in facility quarantine followed by 7 days of home quarantine. It is very clear and all administrations know about it.”

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