Mumbai: Faced with Covid cases threatening to spiral out of control and with home-quarantined patients playing truant, the Maharashtra Government has decided to confer the powers of police officers to the chairpersons and secretaries of cooperative housing societies. Their mandate will be to see that Covid patients who are home quarantined, remain at home and adhere to the stipulated norms. The chairperson and secretary will not enjoy powers under the Indian Penal Code or Bombay Police Act but they can exercise their authority and ensure that the Covid patients in their housing societies don’t wander around but remain confined to their homes.
State Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, at a meeting on Tuesday, directed the divisional commissioners, district collectors, municipal commissioners and chief executive officers of Nagar Panchayats and municipal councils to implement the government order strictly. He directed the administration to bring down the case growth rate to below 5 per cent and directed them to implement measures to prevent the blackmarketing of Remdesivir.
A state urban development department official told The Free Press Journal, the office bearers have direct access to society members and can help control the spread of the pandemic. “The chairman and secretary can be informants and inform police and civic officials if home-quarantined patients are not in compliance with Covid-appropriate behaviour,” he noted.
Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association Chairman Ramesh Prabhu said, considering the shortage of beds, local authorities have no option but to encourage home quarantine. “The experience is that many positive patients go out of home while in quarantine. The housing society office bearers, through their own system, can keep a watch on such patients. They will be the best informers of authorities about any violation. In case such powers are not given to office bearers, the patients may question their authority and this could lead to further dispute,” he opined.
Prabhu suggested that the authorities should see that such powers are not misused by the office bearers. “Therefore, the government should issue clear guidelines to office bearers without designating them as police officers,” he felt.
Meanwhile, Shinde asked the administration to regularly organise blood donation camps by contacting police parties and NGOs. He also directed the administration to put stickers on the homes of patients in home isolation, and display banners where there were such cases. He asked the administration to take special measures so that people would not venture out of containment zones.