With the rising number of cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 hitting India hard, governments right from the Centre right up to the gram panchayat are figuring out ways to curb the spread of the disease. While some parts of the country have shared success stories, others struggle to do so.
Amid these cases, residents Bordi, a village in Dahanu, located in Palghar district on the outskirts of Mumbai, have alleged that they are being forced into institutional quarantine by the local authorities. They have further claimed that the village sarpanch is against this ‘forced’ quarantine, but has his hands tied.
It all began when one of the villagers tested positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, but did not display any of the symptoms. However, she and her family members, as well as the rest of the village were forced to be taken to a quarantine centre located 25 kilometres away.
“We realised that we would be forced to be taken, so we locked our doors from inside and stayed at home like that for seven days. They finally lifted the lockdown in our village and took away the barricades,” said one of the villagers.
While speaking to Dinesh Thakor, the local sarpanch, he said that the district administration was following rules. “We had to take the entire family and people who had been in contact with them for the past few days to get them tested. As a result, the administration had to take necessary action,” he explained.
The villagers have also shared screenshots of the quarantine centre located 25 kilometres away from Bordi. The rundown building is in a dilapidated state and videos even showed stray dogs moving inside the facility as people waited to leave. Thakor, however, maintains that while he had heard of the poor condition of the centre because of complaints, he has not physically seen the centre and therefore ‘cannot comment about it’.
Local NGOs have also said that the modus operandi of forcing people into institutionalised quarantine in rural parts of India is similar to the incident witnessed by Bordi villagers. “While we understand that people need to quarantine themselves if they have come in contact with a COVID-19 patient, we do not understand forcing all of them to stay in an institutionalised quarantine centre that has poor facilities. This will only make the problem worse,” said an NGO member.
While speaking to FPJ, former BJP MLA from Vasai Vivek Pandit said that people should not panic when one person contracting the disease. When we addressed the allegations of forced institutional quarantine, and the poor centre, he said that he would look into the matter.
Despite several attempts, Palghar collector Dr Kalash Shinde was unavailable for comment.