Opposition leaders in Punjab booked for violating Covid norms for staging anti-govt protests

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Chandigarh, Jun 7 (PTI) Several opposition leaders in Punjab, including Sukhbir Singh Badal of the SAD and Saravjit Kaur Manuke of the AAP, were booked on Monday for staging protests against the state government in violation of the restrictions imposed to curb coronavirus spread, hours after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directed the police to act against them, officials said.

The chief minister asked the state police chief to act against opposition leaders and workers who have been staging sit-ins in the state over the past few days.

Acting on the chief minister's directions, the police booked a host of opposition leaders under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Disaster Management Act, officials said.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) workers and leaders led by Badal staged a sit-in near the residence of Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu in Mohali on Monday and sought his dismissal from the cabinet over the 'diversion' of coronavirus vaccine to private hospitals. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had staged a protest outside Sidhu's residence on Sunday on the same issue.

For the SAD protest, besides Badal, former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra, MLAs Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, NK Sharma, Pawan Kumar Tinu, Sukhwinder Singh, Baldev Singh, Gurpartap Singh Wadala, other senior leaders and around 200 unidentified persons were booked.

AAP legislators Saravjit Kaur Manuke, Amarjeet Singh Sandoa, Jai Kishan Rodi and other leaders and 150 unidentified persons were booked for Sunday's protest.

The cases were registered in Mohali.

In a press statement, the chief minister said the acts of the SAD and the AAP were 'irresponsible' and in utter violation of the strict curbs in place in the state in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. He asked Director General of Police (DGP) Dinkar Gupta to take action against them under the law.

At a time when people could not gather even for weddings and funerals, leaders and workers of these parties were behaving in a “reckless manner”, showing no concern for the safety and health of the people of Punjab, said the chief minister, adding that such behaviour could not be allowed or tolerated.

Pointing out that the AAP's 'dharna' on Sunday was in fact in violation of the weekend curfew in place in the state, the chief minister said such 'dharnas' and political gatherings were potential super-spreaders and had to be firmly tackled.

The law should take its course, he told the DGP, adding that political leaders had a big responsibility towards the society, which these parties had “shunned”, thus “jeopardising” the lives of Punjab's people.

This was not the time to play political games and indulge in dirty politicking but to come together to fight the pandemic to the finish, Singh stated.

The Punjab government had last week asked private hospitals to return all vaccine stock meant for the 18-44 age group, following criticism. PTI CHS VSD SMN SMN

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