In 1977, the historic year when the redoubtable Congress Party in India suffered its first-ever electoral defeat, a small fracas occurred in an airplane that landed at Bombay Airport.1 A group of travellers journeying from Surinam were informed that they lacked immunisation certificates for yellow fever and would be quarantined in a nearby hospital.2 It was reported that the travellers in question resisted, heated exchanges ensued and the situation escalated seriously. Very soon, it was discovered that Brijlal Verma, who was the communications minister in the newly anointed Janata Party cabinet, led the group resisting quarantine.3 His fellow travellers included senior bureaucrats in the tourism and communications departments who had accompanied the cabinet minister on an official visit to Surinam to inaugurate Indian-built telephone exchanges. Despite repeated pleas by quarantine officials in Bombay, when the minister refused to disembark from the plane, it was fumigated and sent onwards to Delhi. Public health officials in Delhi, still unaware of the identity of the passengers, arrived to inspect the aircraft where it had landed, but reported that the minister insisted on staying aboard, refusing to accede to quarantine requests. After more than an hour of dispute, by which time the aircraft missed a scheduled training flight, the entourage agreed to step out into the lounge for ‘VIP quarantine’ at the Delhi Airport, which consisted of ‘air conditioned, specially designed rooms for VIP security’.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Yellow Fever, Quarantine and the Jet Age in India: Extremely Far, Incredibly Close
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number