MUMBAI: Asia’s largest slum Dharavi in Mumbai is a ticking time bomb in the wake of coronavirus outbreak. Social distancing is nearly unthinkable in Dharavi. Reason? On the 613 hectares of land, more than 15 lakh people stay in this urban slum, with five to eight people sharing a 100 sq ft of room.
Dr Shrinivas Chavan of JJ Hospital said that as per the WHO norms, one person should get to stay minimum 20 sq ft of area. It is less than 10 sq ft in Dharavi. “In Mumbai, Dharavi has a large number of TB patients because of a high density population. It is easy to quarantine any VIP patient, but not in Dharavi. Therefore, Dharavi is a ticking time bomb,” warned Dr Chavan.
Social activist Rajendra Korade agreed that social distancing is a distant reality in Dharavi. “Lakhs of people literarily crammed on 613 hectares of limited space. There is no proper ventilation, light and other basic facility like water... We lack basic things.” Korade warned that any infection in Dharavi would affect entire Mumbai. But, Satish Pawar, director of Maharashtra Health Mission said though Dharavi is densely populated, the immunity of its residents is also robust. “Earlier, swine flu came but hardly any patient were detected in this area,” Pawar said. “In case of any suspected case, we have ensured isolation facilities,” he added.
Situation akin to war, says uddhav
Seeking people’s cooperation in the “war against a virus”, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray reminded the people that the situation is akin to 1965 and 1971 wars where people used to respond to sirens. “During the war, soldiers were fighting against the enemy. Now, doctors, nurses and medical fraternity are fighting for us. We have to help them by staying at home and preventing the virus from spreading,” Thackeray said. Home minister Anil Deshmukh said that those who were stamped Home Quarantined. but violating the directives would face action under the Epidemic Diseases Act.