On 19 March, the district administration of Mohali, a satellite city of Chandigarh, published a “quarantine list” on their official website. This list had names of people who had been placed under quarantine as suspected carriers of the novel coronavirus. It also included other personal details, such as residential addresses and phone numbers. The authorities claimed that the identities of the quarantined people were revealed due to “social pressure,” and that outing those under quarantine was necessary to contain community transmission. The deputy commissioner further said that this way “people will get information about such persons while sitting at home and they would be vigilant to avoid contact with them and their family members.” In the following days, several other government authorities, including in Chandigarh, Karnataka, Odisha, Delhi, Nagpur, Ajmer, and Mumbai, prepared such “quarantine lists.” The lists were either published on their publicly accessible websites or eventually leaked through unidentified channels.
The data that was eventually used to curate these quarantine lists was first collected by the government of India, under the aegis of the union ministry of health and family welfare. On 3 March, the MOHFW mandated that all international passengers entering India would have to fill self-declaration forms, submit the forms to health officials and immigration officials, and undergo health screenings at the points of entry. In essence, this form operated as a prerequisite for entry into India and sought personal information, including name, residential address, phone number, port of departure and final destination.
Shockingly, it was this data obtained from incoming passengers that was used to curate the quarantine lists. All these lists included personal details in varying measures, ranging from names, phone numbers, residential addresses and port of journey, and were freely floating around on Whatsapp or Telegram groups, within a few hours. If you were on one of these lists, by that evening, everybody had your personal information, and your neighbours viewed you with suspicion. Needless to say, these quarantine lists ended up operating as target lists—they have led to people facing severe harassment, ostracisation, stigma and anonymous hate-calls.