In the first death of a municipal staff due to COVID-19 in Mumbai, a 49-year-old Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) official who was taking care of food distribution to homeless and migrant workers in Dharavi area passed away on Wednesday.
With his death setting off panic and another municipal staff testing positive, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said the civic body would conduct medical check-up of all its officials involved in food distribution.
Pednekar said with the demand for food expected to come down as states take their migrant labour back, the BMC might also stop distribution of food. “After this, corporators can make arrangement for food distribution in (their) respective wards. Also, grains, instead of food packets, will be considered,” she said in a recorded video.
The BMC has been distributing about 6 lakh food packets to labourers and homeless across the city daily.
Madhukar Hariyan, who died on Wednesday, was an inspector in the Assessment Department of G-North Ward (Dharavi, Dadar, Shivaji Park) and had been working for the BMC for more than 15 years. A resident of Borivali, he did not have any co-morbidity, a civic official said. According to BMC officials, Hariyan developed fever on April 22 and had not been coming to office since then.
“Initially, he went to a private doctor in Borivali. However, his condition started deteriorating. Since he had COVID-19 like symptoms, he was tested on Monday and the results came positive after two days. On Wednesday, when municipal staff were taking him to Kasturba Hospital for treatment, he died on the way,” an official said.
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The 30 staff members of G-North Ward who had been in contact with Hariyan have been tested for COVID-19 and sent to home quarantine for 14 days pending results. “Since none of them has symptoms, we have told them to stay at home,” Assistant Municipal Commissioner, G-North Ward, Kiran Dighavkar said. Samples have also been taken of Hariyan’s mother, wife and two daughters.
With a population density of 35,000 per sq km and more than 8 lakh people, Dharavi remains a challenge for the BMC. On Wednesday, 14 new cases were reported from the slum area, taking the total cases there to 344. It has seen 18 deaths of people with coronavirus.
The BMC is currently distributing food at 700 spots in the city, through more than 800 Planning Department staff. They collect food from 44 community kitchens.
The BMC union said very little had been done to ensure their safety. “Hariyan lost his life due to the BMC’s negligence. We had demanded medical check-up of all the municipal staff part of food distribution as they did not have safety gear and directly came in contact with many people. Now, after Hariyan’s death, the BMC has promised to conduct check-up of all staff and give them basic protective equipment,” said Ramakant Bane, general secretary of the union.
On Thursday, Dr Sangita Hasnale, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, Planning Department, and in charge of food distribution, issued a circular saying all the staff would be checked for symptoms.
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