Opposition parties in Kerala have slammed the Kerala government's decision to charge the expenses of institutional quarantine from the returning expatriates who avail the service.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday announced the government's decision at his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the state.
"From now, those who return from abroad will have to bear the expenses of institutional quarantine," the chief minister said. Asked about the poor people among the returnees, the CM said, "The poor will also have to pay for it."
The government has not fixed the amount.
Soon after the announcement, Congress leaders took to social media questioning the government. "Today's Kerala is a result of hard work of the expatriates too. It's inhumane to steal from those who return from abroad after losing everything during this crisis," leader of the opposition Ramesh Chennithala said in a Facebook post.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy echoed the same views on Wednesday. He termed the decision 'inhumane' and 'an insult' to the state. He said many of the returnees are unable to bear the expenses of the quarantine.
Shashi Tharoor MP said the decision was a betrayal of the Kerala healthcare model. "Expecting our returning pravasis, many of whom have lost their jobs, to pay for their quarantine is not only sad but a betrayal of the Kerala healthcare model whose success the govt has been basking in," he wrote on Twitter.
Congress leader V D Satheesan went a step ahead and said as an MLA he was ready to bear the expenses of institutional quarantine of the returnees in his Paravur assembly constitution. "The government should withdraw the decision immediately. They have been forced to return. The returnees are those who went abroad on visiting visas and failed to find a job, those who lost their jobs, patients and family members of those who had to face salary cuts. Of them, those who can afford paid quarantine will opt for that," he said.
'Paid quarantine' is quarantine facility arranged in expensive hotels. V T Balram MLA attacked the government using statistics. "So ar only nearly 11,000 expatriates have returned. More than half of them have gone for home quarantine. Those who can afford paid quarantine have opted the facilities in hotels and resorts. Only the poor people who can't afford these have chosen the quarantine facility arranged by the government. They are dumped in hostels of schools and colleges. The government is mercilessly washing their hands of the responsibility of these people who had to depend on others even for their flight tickets," he said.
Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty is also among the leaders who have slammed the government move.
The government had earlier announced that it was ready to welcome any number of people returning to the state and bear their expenses during the quarantine. Kerala has seen a surge in the number of COVID cases following the influx of people returning from abroad and other states. The government wants to discourage more people from flying back with the decision to charge quarantine fees from them.