The Surat Municipal Corporation has quarantined nearly 1.25 sq km of the historic town of Rander in Surat known to be older than Surat itself and spread over 4.5 sq km.
Famous for its heritage structures like the Ek Khambha Masjid, and temples, Rander reported two COVID-19 positive cases in homes situated within a 550 metre interval.
Bamboos, iron pipes and other obstacles like vehicles, had been placed at the entry and exits of different streets, with red flags and banners stating that the area has been under mass quarantine. Police teams with SMC staffers had been deployed in the areas at different locations to prevent entry and exit of the locals staying in the area.
Tempos loaded with grocery items reach this barricade to enable people to buy essentials. A good majority of the 15,000 people under quarantine here are of meagre means and earn their living by running streetfood stalls or doing menial jobs.
Sunni Bohras whose ancestors returned from Rangoon in the erstwhile Burma, settled in Rander town and during Ramzan the town hosts a fair famous for its non-vegetarian fare like the Rangooni parathas, Khawsa, home-made kulfi for which people come from as far as Mumbai, and from other parts of Gujarat, says Kasim Bham, leader of the Rander Sunni Bohra Jamaat.
The first case of COVID-19 surfaced on March 19 after a 23-year-old businessman returned from a tour of Dubai and Sri Lanka. He had complications of cold and cough as a result of which he was admitted in new civil hospital on March 15, in the isolation ward.
The second case was of a 67-year-old male resident, whose contact tracing led the health authorities on a wild chase. The infected man ran a laundry shop and used to visit a mosque near his house in Rander, regularly. He was admitted in a private hospital on March 29 and tested positive on March 30. Health officials had found that he might got infected in community gathering.
Chief fire officer of SMC, Basant Pareek said, “It took three days and nights to disinfect the entire area as there are narrow streets, where vehicle cannot enter. Fifty officials were involved to disinfect the entire area.”
Surat Municipal Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani said, “We have carried out door to door survey in the Rander town, covering 16,785 houses, before taking decision of mass quarantine. These also include 22 main roads, 23 mosques and 82 internal roads.”
Irfan Shaikh, a local resident, said, “The mosque had been closed, and the shops too, so the movement of people from their houses is already restricted. Despite this, why was the step of mass quarantine taken? People face difficulties in meeting their daily needs, like vegetables, fruits, milk bags, cooking gas bottles etc. At present we are taking help from our friends and relatives to bring such things from the market area.”
Bham said, “The Rander town’s majority of the population is of Sunni Bohra, a sect among Muslims, who migrated from Rangoon and settled here on the banks of Tapi river. Along with Bohras, there are local Muslims and Hindus. Many of the Bohra families are well-to-do and have relatives in US, UK and South Africa.”
He added, “The area which has been mass quarantined also include the Rander Bohra Sunni Jamat Panchayat office and Rander co-operative bank, and other social organisation offices etc. The Sunni Bohra community elders are mostly in the share trading business.”
Health department sources in SMC said that the area covered in the mass quarantine include 4,000 houses comprising around 15,000 population.
Ismail Shaikh alias Bombaywala (53), a social worker, has taken initiative to help the poor by supplying meals to them after the mass quarantine was imposed. A community kitchen has been set up wherein grocery items are been brought, cooked twice during afternoon and evening and distributed among around 1,500 families.
Talking to The Indian Express, Ismail, a real estate property dealer, said, “With such restrictions on movements, many poor people do not have access to food outside. So we decided to serve them food twice a day. We collected funds from those who are financially sound and made teams. First we did a survey in our area, and noted down the details of families which are poor. Each family has been given a card which they have to show to get the meal.”
“We have friends who are grocery wholesale dealers and through them we get items at subsidised rates in nearby areas, the vegetables are available in nearby area. Meat is also available. The chefs are also from our area,” Bombaywala, further added.
Moin Shaikh who works with Bombaywala said, “At present we are serving 1,500 people and figure might go up in coming days, as large number of people turn up to our open kitchen every day. However, everyone maintains distance while they wait in the queue. We also have stock of sanitisers which is used by our volunteers.”
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