Mumbai guardian minister and Malad legislator Aslam Shaikh tells The Indian Express that supply of relief material in the form of foodgrain and essentials for the urban poor, migrant labourers has already begun
Mumbai’s poor and migrant workers are still awaiting the government aid, especially the rations. When will supply begin?
We have already begun giving Mumbaikars rations for three months in advance, as per the policy. This is for those with ration cards, who usually access PDS foodgrain. For the migrant workers who may not have ration cards, we providing them also with rice, atta and other essential cooking material. For this we will make the system as simple and accessible as possible, they will not require any proof or documentation. We are starting with the construction labourers who form a major chunk of migrant workers. Government officials will distribute the relief in a decentralised way. We have estimated 20,000 people in the island city where I am guardian minister, for immediate relief. I have also instructed ward officers of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to rehabilitate such workers in BMC schools or other empty buildings if they do not have a place to live.
How will you make sure nobody is left out?
Simultaneously, we are appointing nodal officers for every area, along with the deputy collectors. People can reach out to nodal officers with any complaints if they do not receive the relief. I want to make sure the migrant workers in the island city do not suffer the fate as those elsewhere who were forced by circumstances to start walking to their home states. So officers are also drawing up estimates in various localities so that we have data. We have sought and are receiving the support of all elected representatives including corporator and legislators across party lines — they are spread out and are aware of local realities. They are passing information on to the Mumbai collector or to me so that any groups who are left out will also be identified and reached. Aid distribution has already begun on Sunday and Monday.
Also, in my own constituency, in areas such as Ambujwadi and other slum clusters where large numbers of migrants live, we have sent messages that I am providing relief material in addition to the government relief. With support from some large-hearted people, we have collected 70 tonnes of material including rice, atta, dal, sugar and cooking oil. At least 7,000 relief packages for the poorest in my area are ready and we will distribute these at their doorstep to avoid crowding.
As cases of positive patients without any travel history or contact with. other patients starts, is Mumbai prepared for a large spike in cases?
The government has identified two places for isolation, quarantine and treatment — the NEC exhibition grounds in Goregaon and the NSC complex in Worli. The Goregaon facility is a ready structure and we have only to place beds and equipment. There are also no residential colonies in its immediate vicinity. At these two locations we can accommodate up to 10,000 patients. We will not be unprepared. We have also placed orders for 100 ventilators. These should be adequate numbers for Mumbai. If there is an emergency and we need more space for isolation and quarantine, we have identified the convention center in Bandra Kurla Complex, but we hope that the numbers will not rise that sharply.
Slum clusters are in particular danger of rapid rise in numbers and community transmission. What measures are you taking to prevent that?
We have to admit the limitations of social distancing in any slum in Mumbai — it is going to be very, very difficult to enforce. The BMC is already ramping up disinfecting and sanitising operations in slums. In my own constituency, upon requests from buildings and residents, we are initiating a safe and fast disinfectant spraying — every single housing society will be sprayed using a Swiss technology of cold-mist spraying of disinfectant that is safe for lifts, building lobbies, etc. It is approved for use in hospitals. I have purchased these machines, each at a cost of Rs 1,32,000, which leaves only water as a residue. This is eco-friendly and kills all bacteria and viruses.
Medical infrastructure in the slum clusters is also under immense pressure.
We have already instructed BMC health outposts to remain functional till 6 pm instead of 1 pm. This also helps screen cases at a time when everyone who is unwell fears the worst. In addition, we are connecting doctors through medical associations with society WhatsApp groups to make sure that every single person in need has a doctor available.
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