The Shiromani Akali Dal on Friday asked Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to apologise to the Sikh community for "mismanaging" the repatriation of pilgrims from Nanded in Maharashtra and demanded that the state health minister be sacked.
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said "it was unfortunate that the chief minister had failed to give the needed leadership in this hour of crisis and had botched up the entire repatriation operation".
"The manner in which the government has failed the Sri Hazur Sahib pilgrims is symptomatic of the way in which it has dealt with each section of society since curfew was imposed in the state," Badal said in a statement.
He said the chief minister should immediately sack Health Minister Balbir Sidhu for "failing" to take necessary steps to ensure safety of pilgrims.
He alleged that the government did not follow social distancing norms while transporting pilgrims.
"They (pilgrims) were not brought to one place but were instead dropped off at various places without following established norms. The government alone is to blame for this state of affairs. It appears that instead of admitting its mistake an attempt is being made to turn the pilgrims into scapegoats," Badal said.
"The SAD will not allow this to happen. The pilgrims followed all procedures and have been subjected to testing in Nanded also before starting their journey to Punjab. If a large number of them have tested COVID positive now it is only because of mismanagement on part of the state government. No one should try to defame the pilgrims or Takht Sri Hazur Sahib in any manner whatsoever," he added.
Punjab has seen the steepest rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the past two days with many pilgrims returning from Nanded testing positive for COVID-19.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)