COVID-19 in Mumbai: South Mumbai wears a desolate look

There was a stark contrast between the island city and the suburban belt of Mumbai, as stricter curbs came into effect on the night of April 14. The footfall on the streets was comparatively less in most parts of the city. Many areas of South Mumbai, such as Worli, Cuffe Parade and Marine Drive, wore a desolate look. In contrast, people were seen venturing out in the suburban belt.

"Not a single person was seen at the Marine Drive promenade. There were few cars on the road; however, there was no traffic," said Ashok Gupta, vice president of Marine Drive Citizen's Association. "More than 50 per cent of the residents in these areas are senior citizens. This is why people have been cautious since last year," said Akash Joshi, a resident of Breach Candy.

However, those residing in the suburbs painted a different picture. "Even though shops and establishments were closed, people were seen venturing out in the afternoon," said Roshan Masurkar, a Borivali resident. "Some shops were open in the morning at Kandivali market. However, later, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials came and shut them down," said Ali Asgar, a localite and activist.

Majority of the people seen on the streets were mainly essential service providers, who faced a lot of inconvenience due to the limited options in last mile connectivity to railway stations. Office goers said that they had to wait for more than 30 minutes to get a bus or an autorickshaw. "It appears that the situation has gone back to what it was last year. Commuting is difficult for people who live far away from the railway station. The frequency of buses and auto rickshaws that are plying is less, " said a government employee. "It seems like daily commuting will become more expensive in the days to come. It takes around Rs 70 from my place in Kandivali to reach the railway station. Due to the curbs, sharing auto rickshaw services are not operational right now," said Ashok Naigaonkar, a pathologist.

Workers also suggested that the state government can direct special bus services for essential service providers. "Today is the first working day and I had to wait for more than 30 minutes. I wonder what the situation will be after 8 pm," said Seema Desai, another government employee.

Railway stations witnessed a significant crowd during peak hours. The Railway Police Force (RPF) personnels were strictly monitoring passengers at Borivali and Kandivali railway stations. Multiple entry and exit points at the stations were shut and visitors had to show their ID cards before entering the platform premises. “My co passengers said that, at some stations, the RPF personnel were not checking people effectively," said another government employee.

Meanwhile, with only shops under the essential category allowed to function, most of the business establishments in the markets were shut. Not many people turned out at departmental stores and grocery shops as well. Businessowners said, since the past few days, Mumbaikars have been engaged in last minute shopping and were able to stock up necessities beforehand. "Few customers had visited us in the morning. Expectedly, the footfall fell as the day progressed," said a departmental shop owner.

Likewise, in the last few days, BMC had deployed its marshals outside these stores and railway stations to keep a check on violators. "The sight of a marshal is enough now to make people wear their masks," said a senior BMC official.

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