#VIPCulture: VIP Passengers walk out of Srinagar Airport without Covid-19 Screening

Two Kashmiri students returning from Bangladesh walked out of the Srinagar International Airport on Thursday morning without undergoing the mandatory screening for the Covid-19 infection, courtesy their ‘influential parents’.

According to reports, two female MBBS students enrolled at Dhaka Medical College arrived with 30 other students at the Srinagar International Airport in an early morning Indigo flight from Kolkata. All the students were kept at the arrival lounge with 250 other travelers who had flown in from different parts of the country.

“While we were speculating administration’s next move, an airport official signaled two girl students to follow him. The official took them out of the airport through VIP exit,’ a student, who witnessed the scene, told Kashmir Post.

She identified the girl students as daughters of two senior government officials.

Students had reached Kolkata two days ago and were screened properly at the airport there. In Delhi too, she said the airport officials screened the students before allowing them to board Srinagar bound flight.

“But when we landed at the Srinagar Airport, we were detained by officials and kept with other passengers who had arrived from different countries in other flights,” she said.

“We were kept like animals at the airport lounge. We could not even breathe properly since it was overcrowded,” she added.

According to Dr. Adnan Firdous Raina, a Resident at SKIMS, Neurology Department, he was at the airport to receive his sister. “It was an utter surprise for me to see two officials taking away their wards while other students, despite no symptoms, were quarantined”.

Dr. Iqra, who had come to the airport to receive her sister was furious. She told Kashmir Post that display of power and arrogance by the VIPs could further exacerbate the situation.

“This can only happen in Kashmir. Influential persons take out their kin from the airport by throwing all the rules to the wind. What if these students turn out to be coronavirus positive,” she asked.

“These VIP’s should understand that they are not only playing with themselves but with the whole community by putting everyone at risk,” she added.

SSP, Budgam Amod Nagpuri denied the report that any student was taken out of the airport by their parents without undergoing mandatory screening.

“We have received no such report,” Nagpuri added.

Earlier police used mild force after the students protested at the airport against the non-availability of food and washrooms.

Meanwhile, all the Bangladesh returned students were latter shifted to the Haj House on city bypass. However after students staged a protest against inadequate facilities at the Haj House authorities shifted girl students to a private guest house near HMT, Srinagar for quarantine.

Pertinently, the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory administration is facing sharp criticism after four foreigners, including an Italian couple arrived in Kashmir on Wednesday despite a ban. The anger was further fueled after a woman from the old city here tested positive to coronavirus infection on Wednesday.

People allege that the authorities were not doing enough to screen the travellers at the airport.

Police Statement
J&K Police issued a statement on the airport episode. It is being reproduced here verbatim:

“As per the directions of District Magistrate Budgam, students who arrived today from Bangladesh at Srinagar International Airport were to be quarantined as precautionary measure vis-a-vis spread of COVID-19.

The medical authorities at Srinagar International Airport requested these students to cooperate for the said quarantine process to which they did not agree and started protesting, breaking window/glass panes of Srinagar International Airport arrival area. The parents of these students who were waiting outside the arrival terminal of the Airport also started protests.

Budgam police along with magistrate reached the spot and tried to pacify the protesters, but, they did not budge and continued with vandalism. Later, on the directions of the magistrate, the protesters were pacified.

Police have taken cognizance of the incident. Students were later sent for quarantine at pre-designated locations by the district administration.

All the members of society are humbly requested to cooperate with the administration in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 (Corona Virus) infection.”