A day after 77 inmates at the Mumbai Central jail, popularly known as Arthur Road jail, tested positive for COVID-19, they continued to remain lodged at the jail till late Friday, as arrangements could not be made to shift them to two civic-run hospitals. Officials said that a place has been finalised in Mahul where they will be shifted “as soon arrangements are made”.
No other inmate, who had shared the barrack with the 77 or had come in contact with the 26 jail officials who had also tested positive, was tested on Friday.
State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had on Thursday said that the process has begun to shift those who have tested positive to St George hospital and GT hospital. Civic officials, however, said that due to space constraints at both the hospitals, a decision was taken to shift the inmates to a MHADA building in Mahul.
“A space provided by the civic body has been finalised in Mahul and once the arrangements are completed, we will shift them. After a week, if space can be made at the two hospitals, we can take a decision on shifting them back,” said an official.
The official added that since the 77 inmates – who are asymptomatic – requiring quarantine are undertrials in judicial custody, Mumbai Police officers will be in-charge of their security. Food, however, will be arranged by the jail.
Residents of Mahul had protested over a week ago when a similar attempt was made to turn a few buildings into quarantine centres. Friday evening also saw protests by residents, which also delayed the shifting of the inmates, an official said.
The family members of undertrials also demanded that they be shifted to hospitals. “They should at least shift senior citizens and those with comorbidities to a civic hospital,” said a relative of a senior citizen who has tested positive. The Bombay High Court, while hearing a plea of a 66-year-old accused in the PNB alleged fraud case – who tested positive at the jail – on Friday directed that he be taken to a government hospital.
Welfare and rights’ groups raised concerns over those requiring quarantine being shifted to Mahul, which has refineries in close proximity, and was described by the Bombay High Court as an area which “continues to be a dangerously polluted region”.
Earlier, nearly 100 people from Lumbini Baug in Govandi and Cheetah Camp in Chembur, who are high-risk contacts of COVID-19 patients, had been shifted to a building in Mahul. Those who were shifted had requested authorities to move them elsewhere, stating that the move was risking their lives as the infection causes severe acute respiratory syndrome and could aggravate their condition. They also complained of lack of basic facilities, including water and accommodation. They, however, continue to be housed there.
Meanwhile, the medical officer of Byculla jail has also tested positive. Officials said he had not been on duty for the last 20 days.
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