The COVID situation in the Dharavi slum has caught the attention the latest news as six more cases are reported.
Dharavi, the biggest slum of the world has a dense population of about 7, 00,000 which is concentrated in an area of just about 2 square kilometres. One of the most bustling areas of the world is now seeing closed roads, closed shops and some abandoned areas due to the massive spread of a global pandemic and a virus breakout, and is under lockdown, just like the rest of Mumbai city. The number of COVID positive cases has gone up to 13 and has already reported 2 deaths. Since the beginning of the spread of this virus in India, the state of Maharashtra has been a hot spot for confirmed cases from COVID. This Wednesday, six new COVID cases were added to the list of COVID positive patients from Dharavi. With no stable source of income remaining, these people are forced to survive on whatever little savings they have from over the years and do not have proper access to health, hygiene, sanitation or food.
What is the Current Situation in Dharavi?
Overcrowding of these slums and massively unsanitary living conditions for the people has increased the chance of spread of this virus in this entire slum. The entire area of Dharavi is under major threat. With a densely residing population and many of them being migrants from different states, Dharavi seems to be a ticking bomb. So far, more than 3000 people in the area have been quarantined, but the real question that remains is: Is it actually possible to completely put a place under lockdown, in an area where thousands of people live in tiny, 10×10 tin shanties and are afraid of losing their daily wages, the only source of income for them? The ideas of imposing a lockdown and practicing social distancing are not as easy as they seem.
What is the biggest problem?
Most people in Dharavi are scared and therefore, they often hide their travel history and other such important pieces of information from the authorities because they fear that they would be punished or nabbed for flouting the lockdown rules. Moreover, there are many people living in cluttered areas, where they have to use common toilets and other shares such basic amenities with other members of the chawls and slums, thus increasing their physical contact with people and making themselves more susceptible to be victims or even carriers of the virus. Officials have seen the people be afraid of the virus and more than that, they are afraid of losing their jobs and livelihood or that they would be taken away into isolation wards to quarantine centres for treatment, in case they report positive. To avoid this, they often give the wrong or incomplete information to the officials and the authorities.
What makes it worse is that most of us are privileged enough to enjoy this quarantine time cooking, watching movies in the comfort of our houses, but in Dharavi, there are 10- 12 people living in one tiny hut with limit access to water and hygiene resources, where they even have to share the toilets. In such a situation, it seems awfully wrong to preach to them about maintain personal hygiene, washing hands frequently or even practicing social distancing or not leaving the house because it is not practically possible.
Cases of COVID in Dharavi
This slum recorded the first positive case of COVID 19 last week and within the week; it has recorded 13 total cases which also includes the death of 2 people. On Wednesday, the slum area of Mukund Nagar has shown a case of a 25 year old male who tested positive for COVID 19. The assistant commissioner in charge also informed that he is the son of a 49 year old man who also contracted this virus and tested positive for COVID on Saturday. The second case that was recorded this week is from Dhanwada Chawl of Dharavi and the contact tracing and history is still going on for the 35 year old man. The third case was of a cleaning staff of KEM hospital, a 50 year old woman who is a resident of Muslim Nagar in Dharavi. A patient from Social Nagar passed away in Dharavi at KEM hospital, after having contracted the virus this week.
Dharavi and its rising number of COVID positive cases pose a great risk to the people living in the slums and their families and neighbours. With poor spacing, lack of proper sanitation and hygiene facilities and a shortage of availability of food and other vital resources, the situation seems to only be getting worse as the people do not have the comfort or privilege of just staying in and enjoying the lockdown and avoiding social contact. Most NGO’s and officials working in this area have reported on the poor conditions and lack of basic resources and amenities that are making this time of lockdown really difficult for the residents of these slums. What we really need right now is for people to step up and donate money to support these poor people living in the slums, with no proper sanitation, meagre savings to sustain themselves and their families and lack of access to food and ration stores to fill their stomachs.
As we already talked about, enforcing the laws of lockdown in the slum area is not really a practical solution. What we need at the moment, in this time of crisis is a strong effort to urge government officials and other citizens of the country to donate money for a cause which is the most important – helping those who are poor and are in need. This is a stressful and a difficult time for all of us and a small step of help is going to go a long way and give us more strength to come together and fight this global outbreak as a united front.