Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Sadananda Gowda on Monday did not submit to mandatory quarantining after arriving in Bengaluru from Delhi on a flight. Gowda claimed that he was exempted from quarantine as he is incharge of pharmaceuticals, which is an essential sector, PTI reported.

On May 23, the Karnataka government said that passengers coming in from Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh would be put in institutional quarantine for seven days, followed by home quarantine. Businessmen coming for urgent work do not need to be quarantined if they produce a negative Covid-19 test report from an Indian Council of Medical Research-approved laboratory dated two days before their travel.

After a controversy brewed over Gowda skipping quarantine, the Karnataka government said that the Centre had issued orders exempting people handling essential sectors from quarantine norms. It also made public an addendum issued on May 23: “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...”

Gowda said that since he is a minister incharge of the Department of Pharmaceuticals, which comes under essential sectors, he is under the exempted clause and hence was 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?” Gowda asked. “As a pharma minister, I need to check production, supplies, and ensure it reaches last point, it is my responsibility.”

The former chief minister of Karnataka said that he came under the exemption clause and the Aarogya Setu app on his phone also showed that he is safe. “After checking everything, we conduct ourselves in a responsible way. [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi also won’t spare us if we move around according to our wish,” he said.

Gowda later held a meeting with state ministers and officials, and said his temperature was checked before he left the airport. He said there were only 11 passengers on the flight and he had not come in contact with anyone. The senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader said that he could have taken a special flight, but he waited for domestic flights to resume. “I am not a person who misuses things,” he claimed.

State minister S Suresh Kumar 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 Congress lashed out at the BJP leader and Narendra Modi. “The prime minister doesn’t feel the need to follow the Constitution and the Union ministers don’t feel the need to follow rules,” the Congress said in a tweet. “What’s also similar is both don’t feel that they are accountable,” they added.

Last week, the Airports Authority of India issued standard operating procedures for resuming domestic flight operations. Flights have been grounded since March 25 after the government banned air travel to contain the spread of the coronavirus. They resumed operations on May 25. Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that there would be no 14-day quarantine for passengers on domestic flights. However, several states decided against this and issued norms to quarantine passengers arriving on domestic flights.

Karnataka has so far recorded 2,182 cases and 44 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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