The pharmacy on Tuesday evening when the shutter was completely open
The pharmacy on Tuesday evening when the shutter was completely open|EastMojo image
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COVID-19: Assam chemist breaks quarantine rules, yet to be booked

Pharmacy owner returned to Tinsukia from Rajasthan on Mar 22, stamped for home quarantine. However, violating rules, he went to shop to sit in cash counter

Rishu Kalantri

Rishu Kalantri

Tinsukia: A “home-quarantined” pharmacy owner in Tinsukia district of Assam has allegedly "broken" the rules by going to his pharmacy on Tuesday, giving a slip to the surveillance team, and risking life of other citizens.

Home quarantine is nothing but a precautionary measure to prevent the deadly virus from spreading, and requires the person stamped with home quarantine to stay at home for the period as decided by the local health authorities.

A citizen of Tinsukia tipped off this EastMojo correspondent that Rakesh Agarwal of Aran Medicos returned to Assam a couple of days ago and was stamped for home quarantine, but he is roaming openly. The correspondent saw Agarwal sitting in the counter of his pharmacy and decided to enter his shop as a customer to verify the information.

While stepping in, the correspondent noticed a seal on the back of his palm and moved out of the shop instantly. This EastMojo correspondent then called the deputy commissioner and reported the matter.

"A police team is being sent," deputy commissioner Bhaskar Pegu told EastMojo after hearing the information.

In the meantime, another journalist of a local Assamese newspaper, Chinmoy Sarmah, reached the spot in a gap of 10 minutes after learning the incident from this EastMojo correspondent.

However, sensing trouble, the shopkeeper pulled down his shutter from inside and deployed a staff outside the shutter to handle customers. The shutter was constantly open until then for over an hour.

Sarmah, pretending as a customer, knocked the shutter and in seconds somebody raised half the shutter from inside, but did not allow him to enter the shop.

Sharma told EastMojo, that he instantly called the deputy commissioner and informed him of the development. "Pegu said that the team was on its way. Thirty minutes later, a team arrived and kept watching the shop from the vehicle for few seconds," Sarmah added.

"An officer got down and approached towards his vehicle following which I stepped out and informed the officer that though shutter is down, people are inside," Sarmah said, adding, "I was advised to move a bit away, police is looking into it."

"Before I drove my vehicle away, the police team left the place," he added.

Chinmoy said that it is worrying that an educated person commits such a grave mistake. "Hundreds of citizens must have visited his shop as long queues were witnessed in the pharmacies," he added.

A couple of hours later, a source in police told EastMojo that Agarwal had recently visited Rajasthan and returned on March 22, 2020. "He was stamped for home quarantine, but today he went to his pharmacy in town. Health department coordinated with and strict warning was issued," said the source.

When contacted, Tinsukia SP Shiladitya Chetia said that on Wednesday that after getting information from more than one source, an investigation was started. "The person has admitted before the police and the magistrate that he had gone to his shop on Tuesday for a short while during which he did not handle any customers,” Chetia informed.

"We have increased surveillance of all the persons under home quarantine," Chetia added.

It is pertinent to mention that it is a shop with small space and EastMojo had noticed him sitting in the counter. The CCTV footage will be of great help to verify his statement whether he handled customers or not and till how much time he was in his shop.

On Wednesday, Agarwal was not seen in his shop.

"During this period, the person under home quarantine cannot step out of his home, under any circumstances," sources said, adding, "Several states had registered FIR against such violators of home quarantine."

EastMojo had reached out to the joint director of health services Altaf Ahmed on Wednesday to find out on action taken. But to surprise, the officer mistook that a home quarantine violator information is being shared with him, and the senior officer guided the journalist to share any such information with the police.

Pegu said that the police team found the shop was closed when they reached. "I am following the case and will share details of action taken," Pegu added.

Taking to EastMojo, Rakesh Agarwal said that his mother is a cancer patient and she had to be taken to a local hospital for chemotherapy which was already delayed due to coronavirus breakout. "My father had to join her and there was no one left in the shop. Hence, due to unavoidable circumstances, I had to go to the shop for a little while but later on due to heavy rush I could not come out," he added.

"I had gone to Kota in Rajasthan with all due precaution and did not stay there for a longer period. I am asymptomatic," Agarwal said, admitting his fault, and added, "Around 8.30 pm, DSP sir called me and after confirming that I had gone to shop warned me not to venture out of my home. I assure I will not step out of my home till the home quarantine period is over."

The day Assam health and finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarmah declared lockdown in a press briefing at Guwahati, he said that violators of home quarantine will be booked and instructions issued in this regard.

The development comes on a day when Assam along with several other states were brought down under lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, and hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared country-side lock down for 21 days and stressed action against violators.

According to latest reports available at the time of filing this news report, over 41,000 new positive cases related to coronavirus were recorded in last 24 hours with death of over 2200, the highest on a single day so far. Italy once again recorded 743 deaths, while death toll on Spain and USA jumped to 680 and 222, respectively.

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