VIP culture — it's a thing those wielding power in India and Britain seem to share.
A case in point is the tale of two heavyweights: union minister DV Sadananda Gowda in India and Britain's top prime ministerial aide Dominic Cummings.
Gowda recently kicked up a row in India after being "exempted" from quarantine upon travelling from Delhi to Bengaluru by flight on Monday. While states across the country are slowly relaxing travel restrictions following nearly 60 days of a nationwide lockdown, Gowda sidestepped the standard protocol set up by Karnataka to screen and institutionally quarantine anyone arriving by air from states that have high Covid-19 cases, such as Delhi.
But given his 'special status', Gowda landed in Bengaluru and aimed straight for his car before heading home. According to his assistant, the minister had already tested negative for Covid-19 and thus would be quarantined at home instead.
There was outrage from the Opposition, but Gowda had his response ready: "I'm a minister."
"Guidelines are applicable to all citizens, but there are certain exemption clauses, for those who hold certain responsible posts," he told news agency ANI.
"I am a minister and I am heading pharmaceutical ministry. If the supply of medicines and other things is not proper then what doctors can do for patients, is it not a failure of government? It' is my responsibility to ensure the supply of medicines to each corner of the country," he added.
Birds of a Feather?
While the news shocked many in the country, such disregard for the rules that legislators and government officials themselves create and implement on 'lesser' citizens, is neither new nor unique to India.
Take the case of UK's Dominic Cummings, for instance. Cummings, the rarely seen or heard but immensely influential co-architect of the Brexit saga in Britain and Prime Minister Boris Johnson's key political strategist and adviser, travelled cross-country from London to his parents' home Durham in his car on March 31.
The 265-mile-long journey was in clear violation of lockdown restrictions that were imposed by the PM himself on March 23. He was accompanied by his young son and wife, who was showing Covid-19 symptoms. Cummings himself tested positive and recently admitted to having stepped out in Durham at least once during his stay there.
The revelations were made in a shocking press conference in which Cummings narrated a personal story about being concerned for his son's health after his wife started showing symptoms. He added that he had acted reasonably and blamed the media for unfairly targeting him.
However, it isn't just the VIP-status-assuming politicians and officials themselves that are common to both India and the UK, but the system of governance itself that values those in power over the rights of citizens.
While both Gowda and Cummings have shown no remorse for their actions, neither government in either country has taken any accountability for the actions of a public servant, albeit the latter being in violation of tenets it is itself promoting: in this case social distancing.
While politicians enjoy a deferential treatment, ordinary citizens of both India and the UK continue to suffer hardships due to the lockdown.
Karnataka has a total of 2,258 novel coronavirus cases, with 100 new cases being reported on Tuesday. While Gowda is allowed to hop from flight to car to home in a day's time without any adherence to protocol, hundreds of migrant workers wanting to enter Karnataka from Maharashtra have been stranded at the border for days following government protocol.
Though many in the Opposition, as well as social media, have outraged against Gowda's brazen statements, the government seems to be on the side of the politician, much like in the UK where 47,000 people have already died due to Covid-19.
Soon after the outrage against Gowda, the Karnataka government inserted an addendum into the standard operating procedure about air travel from states battered by Covid-19, confirming an exemption for ministers. Critics said this appeared to be a bid to silence the Opposition and criticism of Gowda's flouting of regulations. In the UK too, PM Boris Johnson has come out in support of his aide, stating that he found Cummings's actions "reasonable" and that the people of the UK would just have to "make up their minds about it".
To paraphrase the statement by UK's opposition Labour Party, the message from this government is clear: it’s one rule for government aides, another for everybody else.