On May 14, when 27-year-old Ravi (name changed) reached Jammu Tawi Railway Station, he was tested for COVID-19 at the one of the Walk-in Sample Kiosks (WISK) installed on the platform. After his sample was taken, he was assured that he would receive the test reports in two days time and that he would have to stay in quarantine until then.
"I reached home yesterday, after having been quarantined for eight days. Now, I have been asked to follow home quarantine for the next 14 days," said Ravi.
Three days ago, to his surprise, he, along with nine others, were taken to the Government Medical College and hospital (GMC) in Jammu to have their samples taken again.
"The nodal officer told that our tests had been misplaced so samples were to be retaken. People were frustrated as we did not have any clarity with regard to our reports,” added Ravi.
Ravi had been in quarantine at the Maulana Azad (MA) Stadium at Jewel Chowk in Jammu, which has been turned into a make-shift quarantine centre.
The residents’ complaints were not restricted to just delays in receiving test results. They encountered food of poor quality, inadequate water, plastic sheets for sleeping, stinking and overflowing bathrooms and abysmal rooms/halls. These are among a few complaints that NewsClick received from different quarantine centres in the Jammu Division.
These quarantine centres are being used to house people who have returned to Jammu from various states across the country after the lockdown due to COVID-19 was imposed from March 25.
On the morning of May 18, inmates at the MA Stadium quarantine centre in Jammu city protested against the abysmal facilities, including no water supply.
"We were better off in Delhi; we did not feel safe. We were given water after protesting. There was no toilet paper, no soap, and even the halls were not sanitised. God saved me," recalled Vikas (name changed), who was among the last batch of people at MA stadium that left for home on Friday.
Inmates who stayed at the stadium alleged that there were only three bathrooms for 200 people, two of which were overflowing and stinking.
Arvind Langhay, the nodal officer in-charge of the stadium, said: “We have sent the last batch (of people) to their respective homes on Friday. Yes, there was a delay in testing as we could not trace their previous samples and then they were re-tested on a priority basis.”
"The people are lying. There was adequate food and water. I can send you videos and photographs of the same,” he added, responding to the inmates’ allegations.
However, inmates have not just complained about the MA Stadium. People from different districts have also complained about the abysmal treatment meted out to them.
Saddam Shah, who reached home on Friday, recalled his days at the quarantine centre at Seri village in Ramban district, calling it a “nightmare”.
"Ten people, including me, were not provided with food and water and were asked to drink water from the taps in the washroom. After we refused and protested, they brought a bucket of water for all of us. Ten people drank from the same bucket. What if one us was infected?” asked Saddam.
Another inmate from a quarantine centre at Dhalwas village in Ramban lamented about the poor quality of food and the delay in test results.
“The food was bought in one big container and everybody was asked take food from it. They did not provide us with packaged food,” the inmate said, requesting anonymity.
People at the Dhalwas quarantine centre alleged that that the water supply has been inadequate and even after they protested, authorities remained unfazed.
Those from both the quarantine facilities in Ramban alleged that the there was no sanitisation done even after a batch of people left, and that the quality of food was really poor.
Many people travelling to Jammu or Kashmir had to stay in the Radha Soami Satsang in Thandi Khui at Samba district for a night. The inmates alleged that there were no sleeping arrangments.
"We slept on the ground while few others managed to get tables and slept on them," said Saddam.
People from different quarantine centres in Jammu division alleged that there was no social distancing as the halls or rooms were over crowded. They said they wanted to be in quarantine at home, instead of government-run facilities.
"Just because of the state government’s incompetence in giving us our reports on time, we are being quarantined for so long. At times, tests get misplaced and sometimes there is a mismatch," said someone whose samples had been retaken. He had been quarantined at the MA stadium for nine days.
Speaking to NewsClick, Nazim Khan, the Deputy Commissioner of Ramban, said that a “handful” of people were “handling 4,000 people on a daily basis. We have done our best to provide people with food, water and other facilities. There are community kitchens also, like the one in Batote, from which people are given free food."
About the delay in test reports, Khan said that “there were cases where people were tested at Lakhanpur in a Dr. Path Labs facility. They reached Ramban from there and stayed in quarantine. There was a little delay in the test reports which got people agitated,” he added.
Khan also spoke about landslides in the region which were resulting in a delay in the delivery of services. "It is made sure that the food reaches on time. It is on a day-to-day basis. By and large, people are okay,” he said.
An official from the administration admitted to NewsClick that there has been a delay in the arrival of the reports as there were too many of them, with more than 1,000 people being tested on a daily basis.