The approach of the Karnataka government in handling a COVID-19 containment zone in Bengaluru’s Padarayanapura has become a full-blown political controversy.
First, the police arrested 121 people after a group had vandalised police checkpoint in Padarayanapura. The next day, the persons were taken to the prison in Ramanagara district, which is about 60 km far from Bengaluru.
Until April 23, Ramanagara was placed under the green zone as it had no COVID-19 case. But two days later, five of the 121 persons, who had been from a containment zone, tested positive. This created panic among the residents of Ramanagara.
Meanwhile, some prisoners who had been lodged in the Ramanagara jail were shifted to Parappana Agrahara central prison in Bengaluru.
Following criticism from the residents of Ramanagara and opposition members, the government moved the COVID-positive prisoners from Ramanagara to Haj Bhavan in Bengaluru.
Authorities had thought lodging the prisoners at the central jail would create more damage. The Supreme Court too had ordered them to release some of the prisoners from the overcrowded prison.
To accommodate the arrested persons at Haj Bhavan, some foreign and domestic patients, had been kept under quarantine there, were moved to a service apartment in Banaswadi. But the corporator and some residents protested the move.
Currently, the government is red-faced due to as all staff of the Ramanagara prison have been placed under quarantine.
Ever since the government decided to shift them out of the city to Ramanagara, the political class — both the Congress and JD(S) in the Vokkaliga belt — questioned the government over its move to shift them to a green zone.
Also, Ramanagara is a bastion of JD(S). While Kumaraswamy had won the Assembly segment four times in the past, his wife Anita Kumaraswamy represents the constituency currently.
“Ramanagara was among the districts that were in the green zone and it enjoyed a host of relaxations. But the latest mess-up by the BJP government has created problems there,” former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy had said.
“Now, the two prominent industrial clusters — Bidadi and Harohalli — are unable to resume operations. Thousands of workers are left stranded,” he had said.
But buckling the pressure from the opposition, the government went ahead with the decision to move the prisoners to Ramanagara to appease its cadres in Bengaluru.
Congress leader D K Suresh, brother of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D K Shivakumar, represents Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency, under which Ramanagara assembly segment falls. They are out on a political slugfest with the BJP for its changing positions in handling the Padarayanapura case.
The brothers charged Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwathnarayan, a fellow Vokkaliga, of indulging in a vengeful act by moving prisoners to a green zone.
Education Minister Suresh Kumar, who is in charge of tackling the COVID-19 outbreak in the state, asserted that the government’s move was based on the prison authorities’ decision.
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But the statement from Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar that the move — to lodge the accused persons from the containment zone to the green zone — could have been avoided exposed the lack of coordination among the BJP Ministers.
“The disease is contagious. Officials took the decision based on the available facility in the city. Kumaraswamy should stop finding fault at everything,” the Deputy CM had said, before moving them back to the city.
On April 10, the government declared Padarayanapura as a containment zone after five persons tested positive. So far, 24 positive cases have been reported in the zone.
After three days of reporting no COVID-19 cases, Bengaluru saw the biggest spike on a single day (April 24), with 19 new cases reported from two clusters. Karnataka has seen 489 cases as of Saturday.