Union Minister D V 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 Bengaluru as stipulated, but 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.
The minister, also Bengaluru North MP, drove off in an official car with out undergoing institutional quarantine as mandated by the Karnataka government for air travellers coming from high COVID-19 prevalence states after arriving by a commercial airline flight, services of which resumed after two months.
It triggered a controversy with several people taking to social media accusing him of violating norms while others saying rules are only meant for citizens and not for VVIPS, including ministers.
The standard operating procedure issued by the government 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, Gowda said he being a minister in-charge of department of pharmaceuticals, which comes under essential supplies, 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... Aarogya 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 won't 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 has already been issued by the central government (in this regard)."
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 Bharatiya Janata Party leader also said though he could have opted for a special flight much before, he waited for domestic flights to resume as "I am not a person who misuses things."
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.