Coronavirus in Mumbai: Amid unlocking, ‘safety rules’ in housing societies turn contentious

Mumbai: With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in highrise apartments in parts of the city, management committees and COVID-19 committees of housing societies are enforcing their own stringent rules to keep the virus at bay. In many cases, however, these rules have not gone down well with residents who view them as arbitrary and uncalled for at a time when the government is unlocking the city in a calibrated manner.

Ramesh Prabhu, Chairman of the Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association (MSWA) told The Free Press Journal that he was receiving as many as five complaints a day from residents living in societies across the city. The complaints pertain to office bearers of housing societies preventing domestic help and any visitors from entering the buildings.

"It is unfair to implement such arbitrary policies outside containment zones. The government has started to open up and it is time people also realise that it's time to move on with life by taking proactive measures," said Prabhu.

"I am receiving at least five complaints every day. Residents are complaining that management committees aren't allowing their relatives or office bearers inside the complexes," he added.

Prabhu added that problems are also being faced by those who lease out their flats, because office bearers are not allowing brokers to bring potential tenants inside the buildings. Residents have also complained that those who need to carry out renovation work in their apartments are also being denied permission by management committees of societies.

"In these cases I recommend people contact the office of the registrar of cooperative societies in their respective wards. Like BMC's ward office, there is a registrar's office in each ward, where tenants and flat owners can raise their issues, which are being redressed by these officials,” the MSWA president said.

Harshita Narvekar, a corporator in South Mumbai’s A-ward said cases had spiked after relaxations were announced in lockdown norms, as domestic help and drivers had started to enter the building premises.

"Most of the buildings in Cuffe Parade and Marine Drive have started to restrict the movement of residents. Only residents are allowed to go in and out of the building, while the in-house domestic helps are not allowed to leave the building as they find it difficult to adhere to the distancing rules,” Narvekar said.

"We had formed our own COVID-19 committee. The members of the committee used to monitor the health condition of the residents and help with necessities as well. To ensure residents stay inside the buildings, we struck a deal with vegetable vendors who come to the society and supply vegetables," said a resident of Satnam society, Cuffe Parade, who is also part of the housing society’s COVID-19 committee.

Many south Mumbai societies enforced a self-imposed lockdown since mid-July as cases spiked. However, with the number of cases in the city now beginning to dip, many have started to open up.

"We followed self-imposed lockdown for a week, but now, as the overall case count is falling, we have opened our gates. However, we are still maintaining all the necessary precautions and not allowing visitors inside the buildings," said Rajiv Shah, resident of Girikunj Society, Marine Drive.

Even in the suburbs, many societies are enforcing strict access control rules. Jitendra Desai, general secretary, Borivli housing society and residential association, said, “"We have stopped allowing maids and drivers to enter the society. Most of them come from areas that have high population density. Even if they are asymptomatic, they can be carriers.”

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