COVID-19 in Mumbai: How BMC is preparing for Ramzan under lockdown

Updated: 24 April, 2020 07:09 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Civic body, police are in race against time to prevent explosion of infection in city's poorest, densest wards come the holy month

The crowd at Road No 9 in Bainganwadi, Govandi, on Thursday evening
The crowd at Road No 9 in Bainganwadi, Govandi, on Thursday evening

The M East ward, which includes some of the poorest pockets of the city, has become a big concern for BMC. Till date, health officials have reported 166 cases and 16 deaths here. Civic officials and police have had a tough time enforcing the lockdown. The month of Ramzan starting this weekend, is now a cause for worry.

With a population of more than 9.5 lakh people, M East is one of the city's most densely populated wards, comprising the poorest of the poor, especially migrant and daily wage workers.

Sudhanshu Dwivedi, assistant municipal commissioner of M East ward, said that they are trying every trick in the book to prevent people from loitering around. "We have marked out 30 containment zones in the ward. We have barricaded every plot which has its own toilet, so that the people from one plot don't cross over to another," he said.

Discouraging crowds

Through weeks of observation, civic officials figured out majority of the people step out after the sun sets. "We constantly have to make changes to the timings based on the situation. We try to ensure that everything is closed before 6 pm to discourage people from stepping out," Dwivedi said. He also said that starting this week, vegetable markets will be open from 8 am to 5 pm thrice a week.

'Tough staying in'

While staying indoors is imperative in such times, the situation is complicated for those living here with more than 5-6 family members in a tiny room. Sadrunnisa Khan lives with seven other family members in Indiranagar. Her 24-year-old son, Shamim, is a driver. But due to the lockdown, he has had no work and the family has had no income for more than a month now. "There is no electricity in our house and we try to stay indoors as much as possible. But in the evening it becomes too stuffy. So the children go to play in the night in the ground near the Madarsa. The women sit out as well but we don't sit close to each other," she said.

Another resident of Shivaji Nagar, Jameer Siddiqui, said, "It's like a mela out here. People stay indoors in the afternoon because it's too hot and come out in the evening. Earlier, the police used to come every 15 minutes chasing people back to their homes. But now, they are tired and don't come as often," he said.

With people throwing caution to the wind despite the lockdown, this was Road No. 9 in Bainganwadi, Govandi, on Thursday evening
With people throwing caution to the wind despite the lockdown, this was Road No. 9 in Bainganwadi, Govandi, on Thursday evening

Dwivedi said in certain areas like Lallubhai Compound, Natwar Parekh Compound and Gautam Nagar, crowds continue to gather and civic officials have approached the police for additional force for patrolling. Shashi Meena, deputy commissioner of police, Zone VI, said that additional forces have been deployed in the area. "Apart from the local police, additional officers of the state reserve police force have been deployed for patrolling. There are complaints of looting in areas like Baiganwadi and we are focussing on them," he said.

Sudarshan Paithankar, senior inspector of Shivaji Nagar police station said the staff comprising 35 officers and 200 constables are on patrol duty.

Religious leaders appeal

With Ramzan starting this weekend in the Muslim majority ward, civic officials and the police have had to make adjustments to store timings again, so that people can purchase food for iftari and sehri. Kirana stores will now be allowed to remain open till 5 pm.

Religious leaders like Maulana Abdul Shaikh who heads the Noore-E- Ilahi mosque in Baiganwadi recognise that this year, Ramzan will be challenging. "We are encouraging people to enjoy iftari at home instead. We make announcements 2-3 times a day asking people to wear masks and to stay indoors. If we see people walking on the road, we ask them to return home," said Shaikh. Maulana Syed Atahar Ali, executive committee member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said that several videos urging people to read namaaz at home have been created and circulated on WhatsApp groups.

Apart from crowd management, arrangement and distribution of food is another major issue in M East ward. While most administrative wards distribute around 20,000 food packets in slum areas, the M East ward officials distribute than 50,000 food packets a day and there is a requirement for much more. Earlier this week, a community kitchen was started in Rafi Nagar which generates 40,000 meal packets a day.

'Need more funds'

But Samajwadi Party leader and MLA Abu Azmi pointed out that poor quality of rice is being used and many times the food is spoilt. He also said there is a desperate need to increase funding for food supply. "The BMC is currently purchasing food from caterers at a cost of Rs 33-35 per head. But when it comes to supplying food grains to community kitchens, the government is allocating only Rs 25 per head. I had asked for the funding to be increased by at least Rs 5-6 per head," he said, adding that he has asked for additional funding during a meeting with deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. He has also demanded that NGOs be allowed to purchase grains from ration shops at subsidised rates.

Inputs by Faizan Khan

First Published: 24 April, 2020 07:00 IST

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