Mahul residents Saturday again protested against the state administration’s decision to shift 77 coronavirus-infected inmates of the Mumbai Central jail, also called Arthur Road jail, to the area. The protesters claimed that Mahul was already plagued by risks of respiratory illnesses due to its proximity to refineries, and expressed apprehension that moving the prisoners to the residential area would further make it vulnerable to the virus.
The jail inmates, all undertrials in judicial custody, had tested positive for the virus Thursday and have since remained lodged in the jail as arrangements could not be made to shift them. State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had earlier announced that the inmates would be shifted to two civic-run hospitals. However, due to lack of space, the civic administration decided to shift them to Mahul.
On Friday evening, a protest by Mahul residents had further delayed the shifting of the inmates.
Around a week ago, the residents had also protested a move to turn a few buildings in the area into quarantine centres.
On Saturday, police officials said they spoke to the residents and attempted to assuage their apprehension saying the jail inmates would be quarantined in separate buildings and both the police and prison guards will be in-charge of the security of the area.
A senior IPS officer said police presence was increased in the area Saturday after several local residents had gathered. The officer said that 10 buildings, which were allotted to be police quarters but had no takers among the force, have been finalised as quarantine centres for the inmates.
Earlier, high-risk contacts from Govandi and Chembur areas were shifted to another quarantine centre in Mahul. Several people who were shifted to Videocon Centre building, which is in close proximity to an oil tank, had sought to be moved elsewhere stating it unfit for a respiratory illness like Covid-19.
They also complained about the lack of basic facilities at the centre.
“There have been studies, including by KEM Hospital, and orders by the Bombay High Court and National Green Tribunal regarding the toxic pollution in the area which cannot be a fit place for infected patients to be sent. There are many other options in the city, including unoccupied complex in Kurla, which was allotted to Project Affected Persons, with over 5,000 houses lying vacant. These could have been chosen to send high-risk contacts and infected patients, instead of an area not conducive to their condition,” said Bilal Khan of Ghar Banao, Ghar Bachao Andolan.
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