Coronavirus has already reached Mumbai’s slums. That is a huge concern for civic authorities and doctors. They believe that COVID-19 positive cases may increase faster in slum areas. However, the residents of slums are living life as if nothing bad can happen to them.

At the time of writing, according to the reports, COVID-19 positive cases have increased to 73 in Mumbai. Whereas, Mumbai slums have reported seven coronavirus cases. It may increase faster in the slums because residents are not restricted to their houses. More than 40 per cent of Mumbai’s 2 crore people live in slums. That means, 40 per cent of people are at higher risk of coronavirus.

Slum-dwellers are both ignoring and oblivious of the importance of social distancing in this critical time of coronavirus outbreak. “People are seen gathering in large number in the nearby vegetable market. However, they are wearing masks,” Arif Idrisi said, a resident from Rafi Nagar, a slum area in Mumbai.

When asked if they are not scared of the coronavirus as it has a high chance of spreading in gatherings, he said that everyone is wearing a mask. “If we don’t come out, we will not be able to buy essential things to cook food,” Arif reasoned. This is also a sign of a lack of awareness amongst the slum dwellers.

On the other hand, those who are aware of its danger are worried. Mohammed Sufiyan Khan from Shivaji Nagar has not stepped out of his house since the 21-day lockdown came into effect. “People are still roaming around and gathering in the area. I can see people on the road from my window,” told Mohammed Sufiyan.

Akbar Ali, a resident from Baiganwadi area of Mumbai’s slum, where one COVID-19 positive case has been reported also told the same. “People are not scared here. They think Coronavirus can’t do anything to them. Youngsters are playing games on cellphones in groups. People are going out as usual,” Akbar said.

Residents also told that people rush to their houses when police visit in the area. They again come out when police disappear.

In Baiganwadi, residents are out in large number in the area market (PC: Akbar Ali, resident)


The danger ahead
This attitude of the slum dwellers may increase the number of COVID-19 positive cases like wildfire in Mumbai’s slum. Because, not only at home, but people are coming into contact with others outside.

“Mumbai’s slum is like a time bomb. The coronavirus will spread faster because of lack of social distancing,” said Dr. Ravinak Singh, founder of Doctors For You. The association works in slums of Mumbai and other cities for betterment of the health of slum dwellers.

Doctor Yogesh Karwadkar also believes the same. “Social distancing is crucial at this time. But, people in the slum areas are ignoring it. It is highly suggested People should stay home,” said Dr. Yogesh. His clinic is in Lotus Colony. He is also a member of an association called the United Medical Association (UMA).

The General Secretary of UMA, Zahid Khan, a doctor, told that looking into the situation and the danger ahead, they have joined hands with local non-profit organisations and started awareness programmes amongst people. Doctor Zahid has his clinic in Baiganwadi. He is positive with the awareness drive they are running.


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