Govt offices shut in J&K, Ladakh UTs; 1200 lodged for quarantine in Kathua

Cops maintain social distancing during a naka at Vikram Chowk in Jammu on Wednesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh
Cops maintain social distancing during a naka at Vikram Chowk in Jammu on Wednesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh

218 FIRs lodged against violators of curbs
Some detentions genuine, others face harassment

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Mar 25: Authorities in the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh today ordered closure of Government offices till April 14 except for those dealing with essential services while number of persons kept for quarantine at Lakhanpur, the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir during last three days, today reached over 1200 including 29 travelers who landed at Amritsar after Air India’s Jammu bound flight from New Delhi was diverted there yesterday afternoon. Click here to watch video
Numbers at Lakhanpur quarantine centres set up to check Coronavirus were increasing with every passing hour as inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir continued to return to their home towns from different States of the country following nationwide lockdown leading to problems for the administration due to shortage of buildings and extreme unhygienic conditions where the people were being lodged for 14-day mandatory quarantine. However, influx of people at Lakhanpur today was quite less as compared to last two days.
At several places, people complained that they were detained, harassed and beaten-up by the police even when they were moving alone to purchase essential commodities which have been permitted during the lockdown. While some persons were unnecessarily moving on the roads and were genuinely detained and arrested by the cops and a total of 218 FIRs registered against them, there were many others who were going to purchase medicines, vegetables, rations and visiting hospitals, but detained and harassed by the cops only to click photographs, reports said. At Bantalab, police and para-military personnel also harassed media persons even after showing their identity cards. At few places, the para-military personnel were asking the healthy people to wear masks.
J&K Government spokesman and Principal Secretary Planning Development and Monitoring Department Rohit Kansal announced that all Government offices in Jammu and Kashmir except those providing essential services will remain closed till April 14.
An order issued later by the General Administration Department said that the emergency services providing offices which will remain open included Police Department, Home Guards, Fire and Emergency Services, Disaster Management and Prisons, Health and Medical Education Department, District Administration and Treasury, Electricity, Water, Sanitation, SRTC and Municipal Bodies (only staff required for services like sanitation and water supply etc.)
The Government has asked the Administrative Secretaries/ Divisional Commissioners/ Deputy Commissioners/ Heads of Department/ Managing Directors etc to draw minimal roster of officers and officials required to render essential services within their Departments and offices from March 25 to April 14.
“Rest of the employees will be available on telephone and electronic means of communication at all times and will attend office in cases of any exigency as and when required. All other employees will work from home till April 14,” the GAD order said.
Meanwhile, the administration of Union Territory of Ladakh has also ordered closure of all offices in Ladakh UT with immediate effect.
An order issued by Commissioner Secretary, General Administration Department, Ladakh said the offices have been closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Union Territory of Ladakh.
However, all Government offices dealing with essential services will function with minimum number of employees. Staff of other offices will work from home only. The order didn’t mention the date by when the offices will remain closed.
A police spokesman said 218 FIRs have been registered across Jammu and Kashmir for defying orders of lockdown.
The spokesman said 28 FIRs were registered in Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Awantipora in South Kashmir while 14 FIRs were registered in Central Kashmir’s Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts. Twenty-seven FIRs have been registered in North Kashmir.
In Jammu, Samba and Kathua district, 50 FIRs were lodged for violation of prohibitory orders, 13 in Udhampur-Reasi range, 21 in Doda-Kishtwar-Ramban zone and 65 in Rajouri-Poonch.
SSP Jammu Sridhar Patil said eight vehicles were seized in Jammu district. According to Additional SP Samba Faisal Qureshi, 7 FIRs were registered, 54 vehicles challaned and 21 seized for violation of law.
“We are focusing on social distancing and providing ration items at doorstep of people,” Patil said.
At Lakhanpur, the rush of residents of J&K returning to their homes towns from different States following nationwide lockdown was less today as compared to last two days but total people who have been kept in Kathua district for quarantine has crossed 1200, Deputy Commissioner Kathua OP Bhagat told the Excelsior.
They included 29 passengers of an Air India flight which was diverted from New Delhi to Amritsar instead of Jammu and the travelers were dropped at Lakhanpur in the vehicles. All of them have been lodged at Surya Palace in Kathua for 14-day mandatory quarantine ordered by the Union Territory Government, Bhagat said.
Admitting that home-like sanitation facilities can’t be provided at marriage halls, schools and other places where the people have been kept for quarantine, Bhagat said the sanitation staff has been deployed in all lodgment centres 24×7 and the people were being served three meals a day.
“From tomorrow, we are adding two-time tea in the food menu and also installing television sets in all temporary quarantine centres,” Bhagat said.
Reports said that influx of people heading homes in Jammu and Kashmir from the States like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, New Delhi, Rajasthan etc, came down today as compared to last two days but still it was on.
There were over 1200 persons who have been kept for quarantine in Lakhanpur and other parts of Kathua district.
Authorities have restricted movement of vehicles on the National Highways with trucks/load carriers transporting essential services only allowed to move. On other major roads also, the vehicles of essential commodities are permitted to move while all kind of other traffic has been disallowed.
At number of places, the vegetable sellers complained that their trucks and load carriers were allowed to move on the Highways and major roads when they were carrying vegetables for supply at the district headquarters but on return when the vehicles were empty the drivers were subjected to harassment by the police.
They said the Government should ensure that trucks and other load carriers carrying essential commodities are allowed smooth movement. Otherwise, they added, there is no fun of declaring ration and vegetables as essential commodities.
In cities and towns also, police and para-military personnel have set up nakas at various places to enforce lockdown and were allowing only those dealing with essential services or going to purchase essential commodities to move. However, since police and para-military personnel were unable to differentiate between the people unnecessarily moving on the roads or those going to purchase essential commodities, many genuine people were also caught at the nakas.
Meanwhile, both the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh observed complete lockdown for third consecutive day today with all inter-State and other public transport services excepting those carrying essential commodities remaining off the roads and all shops and business establishments barring those dealing with grocery, vegetables, medicines etc, shut.
Domestic flights and train services have already been stopped by the Government of India.
There was, however, no report of any untoward incident during lockdown in any part of the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.
Meanwhile, nine persons from Samba district who recently came in contact with a Muslim priest tested positive for COVID-19 in Srinagar, were traced out today by Samba administration and quarantined at District Hospital (DH), Samba.
According to the reports, some Muslim priests from Delhi, Srinagar and other parts of the country recently stayed for three days in a Mosque at Teli Basti, Bari Brahmana in Samba district before leaving back to their home districts. One of these priests was tested positive for Coronavirus in Srinagar after which authorities in Samba district came in action and started tracing for persons who came in contact with the priest directly or indirectly during his stay in the Mosque at Teli Basti.
Chief Medical Officer, Samba, Dr Rajinder Samyal told Excelsior that nine close contacts of the priest who tested positive in Srinagar, have been traced by the joint efforts of police and health officers and isolated at quarantine center of the Hospital. He said one of them escaped yesterday but was again held today and sent for hospital quarantine.
“Today, first samples of eight of quarantine persons were sent for testing at GMC Jammu which have been reported negative. After 3-4 days of gap, they will be again tested and thereafter as per the outcome of their test report, decision will be taken whether to keep them further under hospital quarantine or send for home quarantine,” Dr Samyal said, adding, the ninth person will be tested for COVID-19 tomorrow.
He further informed that about 106 families staying in surrounding of the Mosque have been put under surveillance and the whole area including the Mosque is being sanitized through spraying/fogging by the Municipal Committee of Bari-Brahmana.
In Jammu district, authorities today traced 12-13 MBBS students including 2 boys and 10-11 girls who recently returned from Bangladesh. As per the sources, the separate quarantine facilities for boys and girls has been set up at Kissan Bhawan, Narwal and Garden Hotel, Jewel (Jammu), where they have been shifted while the team of health and police are tracing out other returnees from foreign countries who didn’t disclose their travel history.