A viral video circulating on the internet shows the plight of army jawans lodged at a quarantine centre at a college in Athur in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district.
“We don’t have any basic amenities… there’s no drinking water, the toilets are very dirty and broken,” says one jawan in the video.
“Everyone talks about us working in the military. We go through all kinds of difficulties, without proper food and sleep. We come home once a month and here we’re being treated worse than dogs,” he adds.
The soldiers, who were quarantined when they came home on leave, complained that the police threatened to send them back or book them when they sought better basic facilities at the college hostel where they were isolated. The jawans said that when the issue was taken to the officials, they were callously told to “like it or lump it”.
The person shooting the video says that a woman and her 18-month-old baby were also housed at the same quarantine centre. “There is no bathroom facility. In case of an emergency, she will have to go out to the next room. How can she go out in the middle of the night?”
A Border Security Force (BSF) jawan who has come on leave from Jammu said they were not even allowed to go out and get milk for the baby.
“When a military person dies at the border, you raise your voices. Will you not do so for those of us alive?” he asks.
He adds that a Tahsildar (revenue official) came to the centre and said they could either stay there or go back. He also said a police sub-inspector who visited the centre threatened to file a First Information Report (FIR) against them for spreading coronavirus.
The soldier said the policeman and the government official were not respectful and spoke to them roughly.
However, the district administration refuted the allegations levelled by the jawans in the video. Speaking to TNM, a senior official with the Kanyakumari District Administration said that the 28 jawans had reached the facility, which is a college hostel, around 7.30 pm on Sunday.
“Their first demand was food, which was provided to them from a hotel. They demanded for water, which was also made available to them. Their third issue was with the lighting which they said was dark and dingy. It's a college hostel with a decent flooring and exterior. Their last demand was mattress and pillows, which we generally avoid providing to people in our facilities due to hygiene reasons,” the officer said.
Adding that the jawans were refusing to enter the premises till around 2 am on Monday, the official also emphasised that contrary to the jawans’ claims, there are 20 bathrooms in the facility.
“This video was taken with a lot of emotion and absolutely no proof to back their claim. The highlight stands at this was not the first batch of people who stayed at the same premise. We had one another batch previously who didn’t have any issues,” the officer explained.
Meanwhile, BJP leader and former Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan visited the quarantine centre on Monday and met the jawans housed there.
In a statement, Radhakrishnan said the jawans told him that some facilities had been provided to them by the government. He assured them his assistance and his party’s help if the state government was not able to provide them facilities.
(With IANS inputs)