Mumbai: Despite 500 marshals, catching even 5,000 maskless uphill task

Updated: 15 October, 2020 08:07 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Ward officers hunt for ways to better their performances, say situation on ground is far more challenging, the maskless often don't have money to pay

Civic officials fine maskless citizens in the A ward. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Civic officials fine maskless citizens in the A ward. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Faced with the challenge of fining 20,000 people a day for not wearing masks, the civic body has hired over 500 clean-up marshals in the past week. Although many are being seen on the roads without masks, despite the added resources, ward officials are struggling to meet the target even halfway. The daily average of offenders is below 5,000.

For the past few months, the Solid Waste Management (SWM) department in every ward were tasked with fining maskless offenders. "The SWM staff work from 7 am to 2-3 pm. Since people usually step out in the evening more, we couldn't catch many defaulters," said an official from P North ward.

According to the officials of SWM department, a total of 511 clean up marshals were appointed across wards barring B ward since there were no bidders. While K West ward had the highest allocation with 39 marshals, eight other wards in the island city and suburbs were given 30 marshals each. Even though marshals started work at many wards October 7 onwards, the numbers are far from the target. On October 13, 4,933 people were fined and cumulatively, the civic body has collected fines worth R1.15 crore from 43,880 defaulters. For spitting, on October 13, 284 people were fined and the cumulative collection amounts to R4.73 lakh.

Despite the added resources, civic officials say that there are other challenges on the ground which makes the daily target of around 1,000 fines per ward difficult. Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vishwas Shankarwar said that often, recovering fines is a hassle. "People often don't have money. They walk around with a mask around their necks or on their chin and quickly put it on when they see a marshal. To curb the spread of infection, we convince people to wear masks and often have to give a warning and let them go," he said. Despite taking police's help, he added that they don't have the equipment to capture the proof.

Alternative approaches

In other wards, civic officials are trying alternative approaches to improve the reach of the marshals. In G North ward, for instance, assistant municipal commissioner Kiran Dighavkar said that they are roping in officials from other departments who have a better understanding of shops and market areas. "We are engaging officials from the shops and establishments department to visit commercial areas. We are also distributing a lot of masks to encourage people to wear them," he said. He added that they have seen some improvement over the past few days and as compared to 90 offenders earlier, the number has increased to 200 a day.

Target of people BMC has set for fining/day

First FIR for not wearing a mask

The BMC has registered an FIR against a person in Chembur on Wednesday for not wearing a mask . This is the first FIR after the BMC started taking action from April this year.

A resident of Govandi was arrested for failing to wear a mask in public and for arguing about it with civic officials in Chembur. A junior engineer from BMC spotted Rahul Madhukar Wankhede roaming around Sawli Naka at Khardeo Nagar area without a mask at 1.30 pm. When confronted he failed to give a satisfactory reason for not wearing a mask and started arguing with the BMC staff. An FIR was lodged against Wankhede, who was arrested by the police under sections 188 and 186 for flouting COVID norms and disobeying an order issued by a public servant.

The BMC has started taken stringent action against those found not wearing masks with the help of the police. Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal has instructed all 24 wards to start a joint action with the police.

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First Published: 15 October, 2020 07:11 IST

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