MUMBAI: The BMC on Friday registered an FIR against its deputy engineer and two others on airport duty for taking bribes from incoming international passengers and illegally exempting them from the mandatory institutional quarantine. The civic body has also suspended the deputy engineer with immediate effect.
Dinesh S. Gawande, deputy engineer (architect) BMC. was reportedly exempting passengers and charging money from them in return. " There are two others apart from Gawande, a BMC employee, who have been involved in this with him. We have filed an FIR against the trio and have also initiated an inquiry. We have immediately suspended Gawande," said a senior BMC official.
A total 49,362 passengers have arrived thus far at Mumbai Airport from the affected countries and have been properly quarantined in hotels as per norms. However, institutional quarantine guidelines do not apply to officials working in foreign embassies and Counsel General's Office.
A few days back the civic body found discrepancies in the data of those being exempted from the institutional quarantine. The BMC wrote an official letter to the airport authority and other concerned agencies that the civic administration suspected foul play and wanted a close watch to be kept on the activities. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) was also alerted.
In the wake of the new coronavirus strain being found in the UK, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on December 21 and December 27 issued guidelines on mandatory institutional quarantine rules for passengers arriving at the Mumbai International Airport from the UK, Italy, South Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
Under the new guidelines, travellers will be kept in institutional quarantine on arrival and the RT-PCR tests will be conducted only on the seventh day at the hotel or institution where they are lodged at their own cost. If the reports are negative, they will be allowed to leave the quarantine facility on the condition of seven days mandatory home quarantine. Returnees will be stamped ‘home quarantine’ and they will have to submit an undertaking that they will abide by the guidelines.
To ensure returnees are sent to institutional quarantine, BMC had assigned its employees on the airport duty in three shifts. Employees from BEST, RTO and even Mumbai suburban collectorate office were enrolled for airport duty.
Many people, however, demanded exemption from institutional quarantine, which is not allowed. On January 4, the BMC filed an FIR against Bollywood actors Arbaaz Khan, Sohail Khan and his son Nirvaan for skipping the mandatory institutional quarantine after returning from the UAE. According to BMC, the trio allegedly misled the teams at the airport by telling them that they were going to a hotel to quarantine themselves but instead they headed home.
While keeping a watch, CISF officials brought the issue to the notice of the in charge of night shifts on airport duty and executive engineer of BMC H west ward ( Bandra, Khar) Waqar Javed Hafiz. Hafiz then confronted Gawande and interrogated him with the help of CISF.
Hafiz and CISF officials seized fake stamps and cash from Gawande and submitted a report and eyewitness account to the civic body based on which an FIR was registered against three persons.
The three accused have been arrested by the Sahar police . "We appeal to the citizens to not to fall prey to any misconceptions and follow the quarantine rule," said a senior BMC official.