Police to tighten lockdown in Mumbai’s ‘carefree’ Dharavi

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Mumbai, April 9 (IANS) In a major development, the Maharashtra government will soon deploy State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) contingents to enforce total lockdown in Dharavi and other slums in Mumbai, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said here on Thursday.
Briefing on the outcome of the state cabinet meeting presided over by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Tope said that several ministers including Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad and Mumbai Guardian Minister Aslam Sheikh urged Home Minister Anil Deshmukh to do whatever necessary.
“While the Mumbai Police is already doing a good job, there is a need to further tighten the lockdown in Dharavi and other congested localities (slums) to arrest the spread of coronavirus,” he said.
Besides, the help of technology in the form of drone monitoring will be taken to check lockdown violations in such problem areas, he added.
In a related development, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which has taken up various measures, including sanitising drives in many parts of the locality, has decided to test the entire estimated 800,000 population of Dharavi for Covid-19 as the number of deaths rose to three and those infected to 17 as on Thursday.
Earlier on Thursday, Mumbai Police and health authorities tightened the lockdown in Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slum, amid growing fears of coronavirus spreading here, by declaring 10 localities as ‘red zones’ in the 2.25 sq. km area.
All movement of people has been stopped and all shops and establishments, fruit/vegetable markets or vendors, hawkers, etc, have been shut down, barring pharmacies.
To minimise unrest in the area, the BMC, plans to come up with a scheme for doorstep delivery of essentials shortly.
Gaikwad, who represents Dharavi constituency, along with Tope visited hospitals and quarantine centres in her constituency on Wednesday for a spot assessment of the grim situation.
“We have requested Home Minister Anil Deshmukh to direct the police to strictly enforce lockdown in this area to prevent the spread of coronavirus. We have also requested the government to provide more ventilators for the hospitals here, speed up test reports for those in quarantine as more and more people keep coming here daily,” Gaikwad told media persons after the cabinet meeting.
These fast-paced developments came a day after IANS highlighted the problems of enforcement and violations of lockdown in Dharavi owing to the sheer human numbers, lack of space, squalor, common sanitation, etc.
Literally meaning ‘quicksand’, Dharavi – the most congested place on the planet – houses over 200,000 families living and working cheek-by-jowl, besides some 20,000-plus big and small businesses generating estimated revenues of Rs 7,000 crore annually.
Considered a ticking time-bomb in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the three deaths and 17 positive cases till date has sparked alarm among the civic and state health authorities struggling to contain the further spread of the coronavirus in Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra.
Despite the obvious risks, most people in Dharavi seem oblivious of the invisible dangers around them and continue to move around in a carefree manner, with all social distancing norms thrown to the winds.