Inmates at Bihar quarantine centres protest lack of food, facilities

Mismanagement at quarantine centres seems to be becoming a troublesome issue all across Bihar. At the SU college quarantine centre in Hilsa, in the home district of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, protests erupted after those quarantined were served two biscuits and half-a-cup of tea for breakfast.

The inmates refused the “breakfast” and raised slogans against the administration and demanded better food. Some inmates videographed the protest and put it on social media, which went viral shortly thereafter. Nalanda DM of Nalanda Dr Yogendra Singh said over 3,400 people are in quarantine centres and samples of those who have come from the Red Zone area are being collected and sent for testing. On the lack of food and other facilities, he indicated that officers have been deputed to look into the matter.

Earlier in the day, a similar story came from the boys’ middle school in Mahnar area of Vaishali district. Labourers quarantined there have been raising the issue of poor food for some time and were protesting since the morning. Rahul Kumar, a protesting inmate, said they kept asking for food since morning but were turned away on some pretext or the other.

“By 11.30am, when there was no food, we decided to go to the local police station and register our protest but even they abused us and forced to go away,” he said. Subsequently, the inmates had a heated argument with security staff and 10 of them escaped by pushing the policemen on duty.

The matter was brought to the notice of area DM Udita Singh and she said the matter was being investigated. In fact, such news has been coming from various parts of the state and the Opposition has been criticising Nitish Kumar for the poor management at centres. On 4 May, about 20 inmates of a quarantine centre in Rishi Bhawan in Katihar district fled complaining of nonavailability of food.

Now, RJD leader Rabri Devi has started taking sharp jibes at the government and indicated that the opposition has furnished proof that just rice and salt was being served at quarantine centres. In a statement, she said, “The Deputy CM is asking us to supply dry fruits to labourers if the Opposition is so concerned about them. If the Opposition has to do all that, what is the government supposed to do? Will they just bleed the state through scams?”

The problem is likely to escalate as the state government is expecting a huge influx of people from various parts of the country. When posed with the charges of Rabri Devi, Neeraj Kumar, the Minister of State in the Information and Public Relations Department, reacted sharply and said, “Why doesn’t the corrupt prince pay a visit to quarantine centres to understand what the government is doing and what are the facilities being provided there? Let him come up with concrete suggestions and spend some time with the migrants.”

He was referring, of course, to Tejashwi Yadav, who returned to Bihar today after much criticism from the ruling party for being an absentee politician. Bihar has 4,163 quarantine centres with 1,60,000 people in them. The state government has passed instructions to bring all the stranded people back in the next seven days. That would mean an additional burden on the state which is finding it hard to provide proper facilities to inmates in quarantine centres.

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