The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the state government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) not to set up Covid-19 quarantine facility in Mahul without its permission.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice A A Sayed was hearing, through videoconference, a PIL filed by NGO Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan and Sharda Tevar, mother of an undertrial, whose son is lodged at the Arthur Road jail since November 2019 and the trial is yet to begin.
The plea said Mahul is unsuitable to quarantine Covid-19 patients as the area is heavily polluted due to the presence of industries. The state was reportedly planning to shift 77 inmates of Arthur Road jail, who have tested positive, to a government-run quarantine facility in Mahul.
The bench passed the order after BMC informed it that tenements in Mahul, Chembur, for Project Affected Persons (PAPs) would be used only as a last resort to quarantine Covid-19 patients.
On Friday, BMC filed an affidavit through Prithviraj C Chauhan, assistant commissioner, M-west ward, It said, “The proposed facility at Mahul would be utilised only as a last resort in the event that the number of cases rises and the number of high and low risk contacts that require to be quarantined cannot be accommodated in other facilities made available in the vicinity.”
The civic body further clarified that Mahul would be used “only as a temporary quarantine facility in the exceptional circumstances” of the pandemic. It said in view of limited infrastructure available in M-west ward, there is extreme shortage of vacant tenements that can be used for quarantine.
“The tenements in Mahul will be used as quarantine facilities only during the pandemic and will be restored later. As per data available with M-ward, where Mahul is located, number of positive cases likely to go up to 2,946 by May 30 and of these, 70 per cent cases will be from densely populated areas, including slums. At 10 contacts per person, MCGM has to make facilities for 20,000 in M-ward,” the BMC said.
The petitioners claimed that Mahul is heavily industrialised having nine major industrial units, including refineries, and argued that buildings being considered at Mahul are in proximity of these units and even HC had earlier considered them to be dangerous for habitation.
To this, BMC stated in its reply, “Even though there are industries in the vicinity, they are working with limited number of staff. Since this has been ongoing for nearly three months and directly had an impact on emission from industries, it is likely that there has been an improvement in air quality and tenements can be utilised temporarily for the purpose of quarantine facility. Medical staff will be made available for the persons quarantined at Mahul to ensure and look after health and safety.”
On Friday, senior counsel Anil Sakhare representing BMC submitted that Mahul will be considered as an alternative in future only if there is no other facility available. The bench noted, “Before the state government or BMC takes a decision to shift people to Mahul, they will require to take court’s permission and will have to submit relevant details.”
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