BANGALORE, June 24;It was an experience that left him both rattled and fuming. When film expert George Kutty returned last week from Colombia, he was stopped at immigration at the Bengaluru International Airport for not getting the yellow fever shot, a prerequisite for those returning from many African and South American countries.
What followed was nothing less than an ordeal for the 62-year-old Bangalorean, angered by what he calls the “farce” of the quarantine process that followed. In the middle of the night, immigration insisted he be sent to a private hospital in Ulsoor to be quarantined for six days (as he had already travelled for three days, he would have had to stay put in isolation for three more).
‘Archaic and racist’
Mr. Kutty says that the rule itself is “archaic” and one that smacks of “racism”. But, even if that is the rule, he asks, of what use is it if the only purpose is to make people pay an exorbitant amount as hospital fee for the quarantine period and then send them back home.
The hospital issued him a bill for Rs. 10,000 (with a waiver of Rs. 3,000), which included bed charges, nursing charges and resident duty doctor fee for facilities he never used. All the “treatment” he got was three sessions where his temperature and blood pressure were checked. He even got a discharge slip that states that he was quarantined, monitored and declared fit. In the meanwhile, not only did Mr. Kutty not quarantine himself, he also (with the doctor’s permission) visited Kolar to attend a film event.
“If they were serious about the rule, they would have implemented it sincerely at three levels: when I left the country, by the airline (which never asked me for any vaccination) and then when I come back, where I am subjected to a real quarantine process,” he contends.
Rules are rolls: official
An immigration official, who spoke to The Hindu on condition of anonymity, denied that the rule was being enforced arbitrarily. “Once in a while people get by but the rulebook mandates that all travellers entering the country from African and South American countries get the yellow fever vaccination. When asked why Mr. Kutty was not stopped when he was leaving for Colombia, he said that the government does not enforce the rule for those leaving India. “We cannot comment on whether there are any real cases of yellow fever as we immediately refer them to the empanelled hospital.”
The hospital doctor remained unavailable for comment.