Responding to serious allegations levelled by senior journalist Shekhar Gupta against the Assam government, Assam senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has informed that one of the journalists working for The Print was kept in quarantine in Assam because she has tested positive for Coronavirus. The Finance, Health, Education and PWD minister of Assam informed the same to rebut claims of Shekhar Gupta that Assam has locked up two of the visiting journalists ‘for ever’.
Today Shekhar Gupta posted a series of tweets levelling serious allegations over handling of journalists in Assam. While responding to a tweet that Assam has much better rate of Coronavirus test than Kerala, the Editors Guild President claimed that “Assam’s counts have the same credibility as China’ if journalists coming from outside are systematically prevented from reporting in the state”.
When one person asked why he is not grilling the man running the whole operation in the fight against Coronavirus in Assam, i.e., Himanta Biswa Sarma, Gupta replied that he had sent two reporters precisely for this, but both locked up forever, he claimed. “No part of the world follows these rules, not even China,” he added.
Shekhar Gupta claimed that article 370 has moved from Assam and Telangana, and both the states are making their own rules. He said this while quoting a tweet by reporter Jayanta Kalita, associate editor of Hindustan Times and former associate editor of Shekhar Gupta’s The Print, where he informed that he has been asked home quarantine for 14 days after he spent 8 days institutional quarantine. Kalita asked what is the logic behind the 22 days quarantine, claiming that the norm is 7 days institutional quarantine and 7 days home quarantine.
Based on this claim, Shekhar Gupta went on to compare Assam with China and made serious allegations of locking journalists for ever and saying that Assam’s Coronavirus numbers are not credible.
But soon it turned out that the claims made by Shekhar Gupta and his journalists are fake, as Himanta Biswa Sarma took to Twitter to inform that one of the two journalists who visited Assam was ordered quarantine because she tested positive for Coronavirus. And the other journalist was allowed after due diligence.
Sarma informed that his government can’t let the journalist who has tested Coronavirus positive go before the mandatory quarantine period as notified by the govt. ‘If a small state like Assam is trying to protect its citizen from COVID, why are you angry Shekhar Gupta Ji’, the minister asked.
It may be noted that Shekhar Gupta’s claim that Assam’s coronavirus numbers are not credible because one Coronavirus positive journalist was ordered mandatory quarantine has no base. The fact that Assam is handling the Coronavirus extremely well is even acknowledged by his political rivals like Badaruddin Ajmal, and the left-oriented section of the local media which was vocal against the BJP government over CAA has not questioned the numbers.
Assam’s total Coronavirus cases were under 100 before the migrants were allowed to travel to home states over demands by states like Maharashtra and Delhi. Since then, the number has crossed 3000, but the majority of them, over 90%, have been reported from migrants kept in quarantine centres. This means, over 90% of coronavirus cases in Assam came from outside the state, as the samples of the migrants were collected at the time registration before sending them to quarantine centres. Because Assam govt is imposing the quarantine rules very strictly, the pandemic has not spread widely in the community level like some other states.
The claim that quarantine rule is 14 days and there is no rule for 22 days quarantine is also not correct. Assam is following a 28 days quarantine rule for contacts of known positive cases, as they are in the high-risk group. The same is followed by several other states too. Therefore, the health authorities decide the quarantine period for an individual based on the risk assessment of that person, and it is not uniform for all people.
Till now neither the opposition parties nor the traditional anti-BJP media questioned Assam’s handling of Coronavirus, but today Shekhar Gupta went on to compare it with China claiming the numbers are not credible just because the state govt followed the rules to contain the spread of Coronavirus by quarantining a Coronavirus patient, who happens to be a journalist working for Shekhar Gupta.