While Majithia accused the state government of "mismanaging" the return of the pilgrims from the Nanded''s Hazur Sahib gurdwara and sought the minister''s sacking, Sidhu hit back at the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), daring its leaders to apologise for their “misleading propaganda”.
So far, 609 of the 4,000 pilgrims who recently returned from Nanded have tested positive for coronavirus.
Health Minister Sidhu in a statement here said the pilgrims contracted the disease before entering Punjab while stressing that ''sewadars'' of the gurdwara have also tested positive for the virus.
Religious leaders have testified that Nanded pilgrims were tested in Maharashtra but the Punjab government did not receive any test report from the state government till now, said Sidhu, who is under fire from the Opposition.
Lashing out at SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and former state minister Bikram Singh Majithia, Sidhu accused them of “indulging in political one-upmanship” over a sensitive issue, that too “without verifying facts”.
“These leaders unnecessarily hyped this issue by spreading this propaganda that pilgrims are being labelled as coronavirus positive as part of a conspiracy,” said Sidhu.
By politicising this issue, Akali leaders were not only trying to demoralise all frontline warriors who are going beyond their call of duty to save Punjab but also giving false and fabricated comments over such a sensitive issue, Sidhu alleged.
Sidhu said there is no need to worry or panic after the spike in cases with the return of pilgrims.
He said the pilgrims have been given the best treatment and also assured that the state will recover from the challenge just as it did first from situations arising out of the return of foreigners and then Tablighi Jamaat members.
Meanwhile, Majithia asked Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to sack Sidhu from the cabinet.
Majithia alleged that Sidhu had started defaming the pilgrims by stating that they had spoiled all the good work done by the Punjab government in controlling COVID-19.
Stating that the "good work" of the Health Department has already been exposed by health workers who had “failed” to get PPE kits and facilities like ambulances and ventilators, the Akali leader said Sidhu has proven to be “utterly incompetent” and should quit his post immediately.
Majithia claimed that it was a fact that the Punjab government did not follow the ICMR guidelines while repatriating the pilgrims.
He said air-conditioned buses were used against established norms.
"Social distancing was not followed. The buses came through red zones and it was because of this mishandling that pilgrims, who were in good health in Nanded for more than one month, tested positive for COVID-19 on their return to Punjab", claimed Majithia.
He said this had also been borne out by the statement of Congress minister from Maharashtra Ashok Chavan who blamed the Punjab government for the plight of the pilgrims.
Majithia said the Congress-led government had first targeted NRIs and was now targeting Sikhs.
"If the state government commits mistakes in repatriation by mishandling the operation, it should not try to put the blame on others," he said.
He also sought from the Punjab government to shift the pilgrims to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee ''sarais'' for quarantine purposes.
He claimed that the pilgrims from Nanded have been quarantined in unhygienic government facilities. PTI CHS VSD RDK