THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: “Two persons who had recently arrived from Tamil Nadu to the colony were supposed to be in quarantine. But they flouted the rules and were seen roaming around in the city. They agreed to be quarantined only after people here informed the police. I have two toddlers and elderly parents at home. Such situations are dangerous to all of us,” said Rubeena Beevi, a resident of Karimadom colony. Her husband who works in Dubai will be returning soon. “Since we stay in homes that barely have adequate rooms, we’re looking for other options when he arrives,” she said.
In homes that are cramped and stuffy, the residents of the Karimadom Colony and the Rajaji Nagar Colony have been living in fear and anxiety ever since the lockdown began on March 25. With Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum reporting a spurt in coronavirus cases, the people residing in these colonies in the city have become more concerned. The first sero-survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on the pandemic spread stated that the urban slums are most vulnerable to the virus spread.
Like the residents of Karimadom, the residents of Rajaji Nagar are also worried since there are chances of community spread. Suma, a resident of Rajaji Nagar said: “There are several people from other places coming to the colony daily. This may increase the chances of infection.”
Authorities step in
More than 1,000 families reside in Karimadom colony which is one of the most vulnerable colonies to the virus because of the density of its population and the prevailing poor sanitation conditions. Similar is the case with the Rajaji Nagar Colony. Hundreds of people sometimes share the same bathroom or community bathrooms. Even access to clean water is not guaranteed.
Although the anxious residents wear masks or handkerchiefs while stepping out, they opine that it is impossible to stay confined in small rooms. Police officials and respective ward councillors of the colonies have stepped in to ensure that the residents adhere to the safety rules during the lockdown. Manacaud ward councillor Simi Jyothish said: “The colony is overpopulated with people living in cramped houses which are very close. It is impossible to ensure social distancing in these colonies. However, with the help of the ASHA workers and other volunteers, we are ensuring that people residing in the colony follow hygiene standards. People who are in quarantine are also being closely monitored.”
Simi added that despite all the precautions taken to contain the virus, residents are scared if the same situation would arise like what happened in Dharavi. People who were in quarantine are also being stigmatised. “I received a couple of distress calls from the residents when some people were put under quarantine,” said Simi.
Volunteers have been formed in the colony itself to ensure the safety guidelines are being followed. “We are keeping a check on the people in quarantine since incidents were reported of several flouting the rules. Recently, a lorry driver who had travelled to various red zone states had returned to the colony without informing anyone. I informed the authorities and he was placed under quarantine. Also when people crowd during certain occasions like funerals, we report to the Fort police station. We are also keeping track of the people visiting the health centre functioning inside the colony,” said Shan Haja, a volunteer.
Thampanoor ward councillor M V Jayalakshmi said:
“We have already given strict instructions to the residents at Rajaji Nagar Colony regarding the safety measures. Those who avoid home quarantine will strictly be shifted to our quarantine centres.”