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2 Karnataka officials suspended, 5 men held after 1,000 attend chariot event in ‘hotspot’




A video grab of the lockdown violation by devotees in Revoor village of Kalaburagi district, Karnataka | Image: ThePrint Team
A video grab of the lockdown violation by devotees in Revoor village of Kalaburagi district, Karnataka | Image: ThePrint Team

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Bengaluru: B.S. Yediyurappa’s Karnataka government has faced an embarrassing 24 hours, thanks to two glaring incidents of violation of the Covid-19 lockdown guidelines.

Not only did former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy’s family go ahead with his son Nikhil’s wedding Thursday, an annual chariot procession was also taken out at the Siddhalingeswara Temple in Revoor village of Chittapur taluk in Kalaburagi district the same day, with close to 1,000 devotees attending the event.

Kalaburagi is the place where India’s first Covid-19 death took place; it was the first district in the country to be shut down, and remains a Covid-19 hotspot. It has so far registered three coronavirus-related deaths.

For the Revoor incident, two officials — an area sub-inspector of police and a district administration official — have been charged with dereliction of duty and suspended. Five local residents have also been arrested for violating lockdown rules.

Also read: Social distancing for guests, none at mandap — Kumaraswamy son wedding fails Covid-19 test

How did the incident take place?

Every year, the chariot festival takes place on 16 April, just before sunset. This time, though, as the date was approaching, district officials warned the temple officials that they should refrain from any procession or festivities which would involve bringing people out of their homes and standing in groups, according to Kalaburagi’s Superintendent of Police Iada Martin Marbaniang.

“They gave us a written assurance, and the Deputy Commissioner held several meetings with local leaders to explain how sensitive the Covid-19 situation is, and how Kalaburagi could become even more vulnerable if the lockdown is violated. Yet, they went ahead with it. We will be dealing with the violators with a firm hand,” he said.

The Indian Police Service officer said at around 6.30 am Thursday, a group of people gathered and brought a five-storey ornate chariot decked with flowers. Seeing this, another 100-150 people gathered and began pulling the chariot.

The district administration was caught unaware, but by the time the police could act, the crowds had dispersed.

Mobile phone footage and photographs clicked by residents have been used to identify the violators.

“We have evidence to show how a group of men kept inviting others to join and pull the chariot. We have identified some of them and have arrested them,” Marbaniang said.

Containment zone and rapid testing kits

Marbaniang said the entire village of Revoor is now a containment zone, and strict implementation of the lockdown is in place.

“We will also begin testing of the residents in the area, as Kalaburagi is a high-risk zone. Random testing will also be conducted,” the SP said.

However, Karnataka’s Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Jawaid Akhtar, said the government is yet to take a call on whether to deploy rapid testing kits, which have just been received from New Delhi, in Kalaburagi.

“Of the many protocols that have been decided, one is to conduct rapid antibody tests. A call will be taken on that,” he said during a media briefing through video conference.

Local political leaders, including Chittapur MLA Priyank Kharge, said people are yet to understand the seriousness of the situation.

Also read: Karnataka bracing for spurt in Covid-19 cases by April end, a long fight ahead: Yediyurappa


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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