May 11, 2021 2:00:52 am
To get around the shortage of vaccine doses in Mumbai, many are booking slots at inoculation centres in rural pockets of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, fuelling anger among local residents.
Each day, people from Mumbai and satellite towns like Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan Dombivali and especially those in 18-44 years category who cannot find a slot near their place of residence are flocking to vaccination centres in tribal-dominated Shahapur and Murbad talukas in Thane district.
The Indian Express visited one centre in Shahapur tehsil, a tribal-dominated belt, and another in Murbad.
At Shendrun’s Primary Healthcare Centre, there were at least 25 cars. Shendrun PHC is about 13 km from Shahapur town on the Shahapur Murbad road.
Amit Raghav (40), a resident of Thane city, was one of the many city residents who had lined up at the centre. “I got a token here. I waited 45 minutes. I travelled nearly 20 km to come here as I could not get a slot in Thane.”
Others like Aditya Shah undertook a long car ride to reach the centre from his Thane home. “I got to know through Aarogya Setu that slots were available here. I travelled two hours to get here.”
While many like Shah realise that they may be eating into the share of locals, the need to get vaccinated at any cost seems to override all other concerns.
“The thought came to my mind while coming here, and I do believe there should be a quota for locals. But what we are doing is legal,” Shah said.
Others like S Sawant, a resident of Mumbai, claimed that as a Maharashtrian he had the right to get vaccinated anywhere in the state.
Local health officials acknowledged the problem of several city residents driving to rural vaccine centres to get inoculated. Dr Rupali Shendge, medical officer of the Shendrun PHC, said, “We opened vaccination for 18-44 years recently and there is a big rush. Many from Mumbai come here, and locals object. Often there is tension at the centre. I have told my district health officer about the problems. I have seen people come in fancy cars and I tell them to go to private hospitals so that the poor can benefit.”
On Monday, too, local tribals complained to health authorities at Shendrun about city residents getting vaccinated there.
The story was the same in Murbad, where a vaccination centre has been opened in the government guesthouse, about 30 km from Shahapur town.
Dr Kalpana Aher, medical officer of Murbad, said, “Vaccination has begun for the 18-44 group and online registration is mandatory and open to all in Maharashtra. On day one, 200 people registered and 170 were from Panvel, Vasai and Mumbai. We have to give more priority to locals now.”
Ramchandra Kudale, Murbad Shiva Sena chief, said, “This is a tribal area. People come from Dadar and Worli as net connectivity is good. But locals suffer. Something must be done and what is happening is wrong. We stopped people coming from Dadar, but they are not at fault. But our people must get vaccines. We have 15,000 tribals in Murbad. I had stopped the vaccination on the first day of the drive for 18-44 group. People came in big cars and deprived us of vaccines.”
Santosh Parshuram Shinde, deputy sampark pramukh of Thane, said, “In Shendrun, beneficiaries are mostly from Mumbai and Thane, and locals are left out. This is injustice.”
Rajesh Narvekar, Collector of Thane district, told The Indian Express, “We have observed that Mumbaikars book slots in rural Thane areas. There were law and order problems and I had to send police on three occasions. To help tribals, we told our nurses and booked slots for them. But by the time they could finish one registration, people from Mumbai occupied the other 99 slots as our internet speed is low.”
Executive Health Officer Dr Mangala Gomare of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said, “I have examples of people coming from other cities and taking jabs in Mumbai. In Mumbai, people from posh areas book slots in areas like Shivaji Nagar, Mankhurd and Govandi as people there are not so tech savvy.”
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