New Delhi: Blacklisting proceedings have started against 360 foreigners who had participated in Tablighi Jamaat activities in India and left the country before borders were sealed in view of the coronavirus outbreak, the Union Home Ministry said on Friday.
Addressing a press conference here, Punya Salila Srivastava, a joint secretary in the Home Ministry, also ruled out the deportation of 960 foreigners, still in India, who came on a tourist visa and participated in Tablighi activities at this stage, saying action has already been initiated for alleged violations of visa conditions under the Foreigners Act and the Disaster Management Act.
"At this stage, there is no question of deportation because the action has already begun. As and when deportation will take place, it will be as per standard health protocol," a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said, responding to a question on the deportation of 960 blacklisted foreign nationals linked to the Tablighi Jamaat.
These 960 foreigners, who are on a tourist visa, have been blacklisted for alleged violations of visa conditions for participating in Tablighi Jamaat activities, she said.
"Blacklisting process of 360 foreigners who took part in the activities of Tablighi Jamaat but have returned to their countries has begun," she said.
Home Ministry has asked all Directors Generals of Police and Commissioners of Police to initiate "strict action" in such cases, she said.
Tablighi Jamaat's Markaz in Nizamuddin West has emerged as an epicentre for the spread of the coronavirus in different parts of the country after thousands of people took part in a congregation from March 1-15. Many of the participants have tested positive for COVID-19 in several states and also died.
According to latest data, 647 COVID-19 cases have been reported among people who have participated in Tablighi Jamaat activities from 14 states.
India has reported 56 deaths from COVID-19 with 12 deaths reported in last 24 hours, a health ministry official said.
The ministry has also asked the states and Union Territories to take strict action in reported cases of attacks against health care professionals and frontline workers, Srivastava said.
The ministry has asked states to ensure the security of medical fraternity, she said.
Several cases have been reported in the country where healthcare workers and frontline workers were allegedly attacked by locales and Tablighi Jamaat members.
The Madhya Pradesh government has invoked the National Security Act against four persons allegedly involved in the attack on the medical team which had gone to quarantine relatives and neighbours of COVID-19 patients in Indore.
Similar action has been initiated by the Uttar Pradesh government against six Tablighi Jamaat members who misbehaved with nurses in a makeshift isolation ward where they have been kept.
Allegations of misbehaviour by Tablighi Jamaat members had also surfaced in the national capital when they were taken to quarantine centres.
The Home Ministry has set up two new helplines for coronavirus pandemic -- 1930 (national toll-free) and 1944 (specifically for North East India), she said.
"Also, list of states' helplines is posted on MHA website," she said.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has written to Chief Secretaries to ensure smooth disbursement of benefits of Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojna which is starting from Friday, she said.
"The Home Secretary asked the Chief Secretary to pass necessary instructions which should reach field level. Call people at staggered times, maintain social distancing and ensure the security of bank branches. Ensure smooth disbursement of benefits and every beneficiary gets due benefits," she said.
So far there have been 2,301 cases of COVID-19 in India and 56 deaths out of which 12 were reported since Thursday.