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Mumbai: Engineers, students and many more — volunteers control crowd, distribute food at vaccination centres

In the crowded NESCO vaccination centre at Goregaon, 24-year-old Siddhi Haidulkar sternly directs people to fall in line and keeps an eye for those jumping the queue. For senior citizens, she carries chairs for them to sit.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai |
May 9, 2021 12:34:45 am
Volunteers outside the NESCO vaccination centre. (Express photo)

In the crowded NESCO vaccination centre at Goregaon, 24-year-old Siddhi Haidulkar sternly directs people to fall in line and keeps an eye for those jumping the queue. For senior citizens, she carries chairs for them to sit. There are always a few tailing her to know how long the process will take, with some asking for directions to the washroom or the water filter.

Young volunteers like Haidulkar have joined jumbo vaccination centres to lend a helping hand as thousands walk in every day to get their jab in Mumbai.

Until last month, Mumbai was recording 40,000 to 50,000 vaccinations a day and the existing staff at the centres had fallen short to manage the crowd. This month, vaccine shortage has added to the chaos – several who walk in have to be patiently directed towards the right counter or be turned away.

“At NESCO, people would wait under the sun for hours. We have pushed authorities to set up a tent and roped in 25 residents from Goregaon to distribute water to the people in queue,” said Ajeet Bhogle, Shiv Sena shaka pramukh.

Haidulkar, a psychology student, has no classes to sit for currently. So, she has come to help. “It is tiring. People are excited and want to get their jabs quickly. I have to be stern to ensure they remain in queue.”

Amit Ramji Kaskar (29), who works in the pharma industry, said that along with 25 local residents, including Bhogle, he first began distributing water to the people. “The elderly need wheelchairs, so I would go get it. Slowly, I began directing the people towards the correct counter. Now, I spend a few hours every day to help in crowd control,” he added.

In the Mulund jumbo vaccination centre, Lions Club has pitched in eight to 10 volunteers, who are engineers, chartered accountants and businessmen. For a few hours every day, they come with laptops and cellphones and help people waiting in queue register on CoWin.

Santosh Mahadu Karpe, a Mulund resident and a lawyer, said that since March, they have registered 65,000 walk-in beneficiaries. “Most people walk in without registration and have to wait for three to four hours. If we register them while they wait in the queue, the vaccination staff can quickly administer a jab. It saves time,” he added.

Jumbo centres have multiple queues – for healthcare and frontline workers, those seeking a first dose, a second dose, for pre-registered recipients and walk-in beneficiaries.

“The experience can be overwhelming for a visitor,” said Sameer Badal. He first visited the NESCO centre to accompany a relative and realised that the crowd could confuse the elderly.

Badal said some wait in queue from 6 am until the centre opens at 9 am.

“Since two weeks, I am distributing butter milk to the elderly. I take them to the counter, help them with tokens and get their registration done,” he added.

At Dahisar jumbo centre, in charge Dr Prerna Kadam said that four volunteers visit every day from Dr Neelu Jain’s Alankrit physiotherapy and fitness centre for crowd management and token distribution.

“The volunteers write token numbers for the people in queue, ensure they don’t crowd at the registration desk and keep the queues in order. Based on the token numbers, vaccines are administered,” Kadam added.

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