Slums were already at risk when pandemic hit the world. With no arrangements of hygiene, food, water and health, it has become worse for the people living there. ‘Before Covid we were surrounded by the same large heaps of waste that smells horrible, and today also we smell the same. We don’t have a proper water connection and so sometimes we go different places to store it for future’, said Jasmine who is a 16-year-old from slums of Delhi. When people are preparing their immunity system to fight against another wave, people like Jasmine is storing water for another day.
In 2020, Asia’s largest slum Dharavi, locality in Mumbai, Maharashtra became red zone when maximum number of people were exposed to infectious virus Covid-19. A survey conducted by city’s municipality, with the help of Niti Aayog (Administration’s think tank) and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research revealed that nearly 57% of the people tested in slum areas of Mumbai are infected by coronavirus.
The condition has not been improved so far by the administration, according to Jasmine. She told Eat News, ‘There are some measures that need to be taken care of from administration’s side. The communal toilets are never cleaned. No hand sanitizers are placed there. Sometimes no soap makes it hard.’ As per the instructions by healthcare experts, hygiene and social distancing is a core part in escaping from virus, then why slum areas are neglected by authorities?
Healthcare expert Ms. Avantika Rai explained that people living in slums has to be extra cautious during the pandemic. She said, ‘Slums is the vulnerable section prior to pandemic and so people living there have to be extra cautious regrading their health. Since it is also an over crowded place, risk of spreading infectious virus is evident.’ She further added that social distancing is a must precaution, they should keep in mind. But how one can, when there is no space between houses? Jasmine told Eat News, ‘Here group of houses are all together. There is no space, our neighbors and us share a common wall and so social distancing is impossible. Even if we want to, we cannot. Forget the social distancing, four families live in a same house. How can we expect them not to share virus, if some for-god’s sake gets infected?’
Jasmine makes sure to mention whoever she notices not following corona protocols. Be it wear the mask properly, or keep the distance, she is trying to do her bit. ‘I along with some friends, have taken this responsibility to correct people, if they don’t follow precautions. Once we even had a fight with an elder, because we told him to wear the mask properly. He thought how a group of children can tell him what to do,’ she said.
According to Avantika, people should act like a self-responsible in the mid of pandemic. She said, ‘People have been warned before, it is them who has the power to spread the virus or not. If someone is acting irresponsible and is not following any of the precautions, then he is not only digging his own grave but even for his loved ones. I think everybody is aware about the protocols, because administration is making it sure to make them reach to as many places and people as they can.’ When Avantika got to know about Jasmine and her story, she simply appreciated her, for what she is doing. She said, ‘She is the perfect example of how one should behave and act during such times. This is what we are expecting from each one of citizens. Irrespective of the age, responsibility is what makes a person sensible, and she is.’
Jasmine recalled the situation during second wave of covid-19 in Delhi and how people were panicked. She said, ‘More than 250 people were infected during the second wave, and 5 of them died because of shortage of oxygen. As nobody can afford to have a proper treatment in a private hospital, government hospital is the only hope for us.’ Jasmine is the only educated one in her family. She said, ‘Cases are rising of Omicron strain and it is scary. I update my parents about the information and cases whatever I gather regrading virus and tell them to be careful. My parents are a worker in a factory of clothes and so they are always out during day time.’
Jasmine need administration to take an action for slums so that risk of them getting exposed to virus can be avoided. She said, ‘We are all out lying on roads. Administration should take some action to protect slum people from pandemic as we are economically and financially weak.’ Administration had already organized vaccination drive for slum areas in many parts in cooperation with different foundations. Public centres are also running vaccination drive for free of cost for everybody.
Healthcare expert Avantika confirmed that cases are going to get higher by the end of January in India and people have to be careful. She said, ‘Follow whatever administration orders and keep your family safe.’
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