At a time when the BMC is racing to create more beds for Covid-19 patients and those quarantined, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) has chipped in by handing over 2,080 housing units to it.
These units, which have attached toilets, will mainly be used for housing the high-risk contacts of slum-dwellers who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
SRA officials worked overtime to get these units fitted with lights, fans, water heaters and elevators so that they could be handed to the BMC at the earliest. Some of these buildings had Occupation Certificates (OC), while others didn't. The paperwork for giving these buildings temporary OCs was expedited.
SRA's Chief Executive Officer Deepak Kapoor said the units given to the BMC include those from rehabilitation and sale component buildings, project-affected persons buildings and permanent transit camp. "Most of them were ready, while for some fittings were to be completed. We have given the buildings across the city, from south Mumbai, to western and eastern suburbs," he said. Kapoor said the SRA wanted to contribute its best in the time of crisis, and would be coordinating with the BMC for its further requirements.
According to SRA officials, each unit measures 269 sqft.
According to BMC officials, highrisk contacts of slum dwellers, who have contracted the coronavirus, are being moved into institutional quarantine. "There are no individual toilets in slums. As per the protocol, we allow home quarantine only if there is a toilet at home. So, we are moving the contacts of corona-positive slum dwellers into institutional quarantine centres. We house two persons in each room, and if it is a family, then one family in one room," said a senior civic official.
With the cases rising in slums, the BMC was running out of space to house high-risk contacts. After coming under attack from the Centre on the slow rate of contact tracing and quarantining of high-risk contacts in Dharavi, the BMC had ramped up the exercise. By May 16 evening, the civic body had quarantined 6,533 highrisk contacts in its various institutional quarantine facilities taking the ratio of positive patients to people in institutional quarantine to 1:5.45.
BJP MLA from Mulund, Mihir Kotecha said that the SRA buildings have come in handy. "We have got 446 units from the SRA, which were part of a rehabilitation component building. The BMC is shifting high- risk contacts here from slums which have seen a spike in cases. Last week, we got 40 new cases in one day, but most of them were already quarantined in this building. So, a massive community spread was prevented," Kotecha said.
Kotecha said that since each room has a toilet, people-to-people contact can be avoided. In a slum, a toilet is used by hundreds of people, but in these units only two people share it. Basic hygiene levels are better than those in slums, and there is scope for social distancing.
He said given the massive spread of Covid-19 in the slums, the state government must chalk out a mid-term plan for slum rehabilitation. Unless Mumbai is made slum free, these problems will always arise, Kotecha said.
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