And for reasons not explained, the Delhi Health Department has written twice to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs — on April 17 and May 3 — seeking “directions and protocols” on their release, saying they “have not only tested negative but also completed more than 28 days of stay in hospitals/quarantine facilities”.
On Thursday, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain told reporters that the Tablighi Jamaat members could not be released earlier, despite completion of their quarantine period, due to the total lockdown till May 3.
“If police have to act against anyone, it is free to do so. Otherwise, those who are in quarantine and those who were positive and have now tested negative, should be released,” Jain said.
Asked why they were stopped from leaving after the quarantine period, Jain said: “It was due to the lockdown. There was absolute lockdown till May 3 when all kinds of movement were restricted. Now those stranded can be shifted and this is why these people, who are also stranded, should be shifted.”
A March gathering of the Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin in Delhi has been blamed by health authorities for the spread of Covid cases across the country.
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FIRs have been registered in Delhi and different parts of the country in this regard. Some members of the Tablighi Jamaat, who travelled to India from different countries, have been booked for alleged violation of visa conditions — authorities say they came on tourist visas but attended a religious congregation.
Jain said the Delhi government has reached out to other states with lists of Tablighi Jamaat members under quarantine – not one had been released until Thursday.
States like Uttar Pradesh started the process of returning stranded people and migrant workers even before the Centre came out with guidelines on their return.
In its May 3 letter to the MHA – it was in continuation of a letter on April 17 – the Delhi Health Department also mentioned “mounting pressure” on the government to release the Tablighi Jamaat members.
“Since a month has already passed after the completion of Markaz evacuation exercise, the persons shifted from these masjids to various hospitals and quarantine facilities are restless to go back to their respective states/countries. As on today, all the 3,013 persons have not only tested negative but also completed more than 28 days of stay in hospitals/quarantine facilities.” “Administration is having a tough time convincing these persons for their extended stay, more so during the holy month of Ramadan,” Delhi Health Secretary Padmini Singla wrote to the Additional Secretary (UT), MHA.
“Department is receiving requests from various states for their release. We are not in receipt of any order of MHA regarding the same in response of our earlier letter as mentioned above. The earlier orders of MHA issued on the release of quarantined persons returning from foreign locations was followed scrupulously. Now in the light of above-mentioned facts, you are kindly requested to issue requisite directions/protocols for the same immediately as there is a mounting pressure on the government,” Singla wrote.
It is not clear why the Delhi Health Department sought a specific protocol on the release of the Tablighi Jamaat members. Singla did not respond to requests for comments.
In his interaction with reporters, Jain did not refer to any absence of protocol in releasing them.
Of the 3,013 at the quarantine centres, 567 are foreign nationals and 2,446 Indians. Of the Indian nationals, 191 belong to Delhi. The government had evacuated around 2,346 persons from the Markaz building in Nizamuddin. Of those evacuated, 536 were shifted to hospitals and the rest to quarantine centres.
The MHA did not respond to questions regarding the letters written by the Delhi government or on the protocol for release.
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