By Venkatesh Raghavan*
Mumbai: Any attempt to politicize this issue of COVID-19 pandemic would be a crude reaction to a human calamity that has wrecked havoc on this city which is cramped for space and bursting at its seams with heavily crowded slum pockets and towering sky scrapers. In short, the people have nowhere to go. They have no source of succor or safety.
People heading for their home towns in the northern belt are forced to walk on the railway tracks for fear of being beaten up by the police in the event they get intercepted while walking on the roads. They don’t have any options as the city cannot accommodate them being faced with constraints of space for social distancing in addition to food scarcity. The choice between devil and the deep sea looks like a picnic on the face of this pandemic breakout.
Recent reports emanating from private hospitals and playgrounds like Wankhede stadium too are distressing to say the least. Though they have enough space for quarantining, the facilities for testing and treatment of patients are highly insufficient. There are instances of patients lying in wait in their respective beds for over four days without any doctor attending to them. The real danger is that if the stack of untreated patients is allowed to pile up, the government will be forced to declare entire state as a red zone.
To make the situation more piquant, migrant workers from other states who want to return to their homes will have to be tested and social distancing maintained for those availing the long distance trains the government has commenced operating. Many doctors have also abandoned their clinics for fear of falling prey to the dreaded virus. Among the most vulnerable are women and children living in slums. Typically, there are more than 10 to 12 people living in a hut. Even if one of them tests positive for corona, life in the slum turns hazardous. The toilet and bathroom facilities in the neighborhood stand immediately closed for people dwelling in this household.
There is also an element of fear-mongering. In many instances, people living in buildings face the inconvenience of their entire building getting quarantined in the event of a single death or sickness that gets reported. As life continues down the dreary path, no solution appears in the near or distant horizon from this pandemic. The government continues to advice people to stay indoors. As of now, the solution is worse than the problem.
In short, the Corona crisis is growing deeper and deeper by the day in the island city of Mumbai. The government hospitals are more than full to the brim. They have no recourse to accommodate additional patients. As of now many of these patients are waiting outside the hospital with the hope that they will be taken in for treatment. As the days pass by things are getting more scary with very little prospects of normalcy being restored in the city which is otherwise a bustle of activity with crowded streets, trains, metro trains and buses.
*The writer is a Mumbai-based journalist and novelist. He is the author of bestseller thriller, Operation Drug Mafia (Times Group Books). The views expressed are his own. [the_ad_placement id=”sidebar-feed”]