For four days, Hitendra Thakkar, a 35-year-old south Mumbai resident, has dared not to leave his 10×10 square feet room in an old chawl except to go to the common toilet.
His situation is desperate. Four other family members share the tiny space with him, which does not have an independent toilet. While Thakkar is trying his best to comply with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationwide lockdown, he knows his limitations.
While social distancing is the mantra of the hour, it is almost impossible in the slums and the chawls of south Mumbai, where families live cheek by jowl crammed for room.
South Mumbai has over 14,000 old tenanted buildings, where an average five to eight family members live in 100 to 120 sq ft homes. With the men of the house now home bound because of the lockdown, the rooms are bursting at the seams.
Waking up to the possibility of a fast spread of COVID-19 cases in such settlements, Congress MLA from Mumbadevi, Amin Patel, has offered to provide independent self-isolation pods for those in need.
Patel claimed that he has arranged for 100 such pods in and around his constituency. He added that these pods are rooms in hotels, which are shut to the lockdown.
“Social distancing is the need of the hour. But in my constituency, 50 per cent of the people live in congested spaces. My friends in the hotel industry have been kind enough to support the initiative,” said Patel.
Besides his own constituency, Patel has also offered another 157 isolation pods in Sion and Bandra Kurla Complex to BMC for sheltering infected persons who do not exhibit any symptoms and do not require hospitalisation. “The idea is to reduce the burden on hospitals and the public healthcare,” he said. Twenty other pods have been offered to the BMC in Colaba for accommodation of staff members, involved in COVID-19 combat operations.
Patel had earlier secured advance ration supplies for commercial sex workers in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s oldest red light area, which also falls in his constituency. He has used discretionary funds at his disposal for buying five ventilators and 2,000 personal protective equipment suits for medical and para medical staff. “The ventilators will be of use to the hospitals even after the worst of the coronavirus crisis is over,” he said.
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