As Mumbai starts to open up, worryingly, there are people who are taking the term ‘open up’ at face value and are moving about bare-faced in public places, as is evident from the rising numbers of those fined for being unmasked in gardens and beaches. As per the latest data shared by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in all 2,991 violators were fined Rs 5,98,200 in Mumbai on August 31, 5,112 were fined Rs 10,22,400 on August 30, 5,318 violators were fined Rs 10,63,600 on August 29 and 4,680 violators were fined Rs 9,36,000 on August 28. So far, from April 2020 to August 2021, a whopping Rs 55,65,08,000 has been collected in fines. Currently, a person is fined Rs 200 for not wearing a mask in public.
The data also reveals that the highest collection of fines have been made from wards with beach fronts and those with popular gardens, namely the A,B,C and D wards in the island city and the K (west) and H (west) wards that encompass Marine Drive, Nariman Point, Girgaum, Malabar Hills, Breach Candy, Andheri west, Juhu, Versova and Bandra west areas.
According to senior officials in the civic solid waste management (SWM) department, the KW ward has many open areas and beaches and more than 70 per cent of the violations occur in these areas.
“The Juhu and Versova beaches fall under the jurisdiction of this ward, where a lot of people have started visiting lately and many have been found not wearing masks and fined,” the official said.
However local residents maintain that the BMC marshals could catch more offenders if they begin checks in the lanes and ‘khau gallis’ in KW ward.
“Most of the marshals are seen at traffic signals, railway stations and beaches. In lanes and markets, people still continue to move around without masks and if the marshals start going there more offenders could be caught,” said Dhaval Shah, Andheri resident and founder of citizens’ group Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizens Association (LOCA).
Earlier this week, the Bombay high court expressed concern about the increased crowds at beaches and promenades since the easing of restrictions and have urged the state government to take immediate action.
The officials maintained that earlier this week, a meeting was conducted and it was decided to aggressively fine violators of the mask rule on beaches.
“After restrictions were eased when the first wave tapered off, on an average, around 250-300 violators were fined on weekdays. But since the easing of restrictions after the second wave, this number had declined to around 175-200 on weekdays, as more people seemed to have become aware of the importance of being masked,” said the official.
“However, people visiting the beaches are not locals and they are fined for their ignorance, which is leading to higher recoveries,” the official said.
A senior official from A ward (Marine Drive, Cuffe Parade) said that during the weekends many violators got into fights with the marshals at Marine Drive as they were reluctant to pay fines.
“For over a year, people have been forced to remain indoors. We can’t stop them from visiting these places as restrictions have been eased. The authorities can learn from this and start working towards making more open spaces in the city and suburbs,” said Harshita Narwekar, corporator, A ward.
Asif Zakaria, corporator, Bandra west, also said that in the afternoons, many youngsters have been thronging Bandra Reclamation, Carter Road and Bandstand after beaches were allowed to open in Mumbai.
TOP 4 WARDS WITH HIGHEST RECOVERIES (AUGUST 28-31)
Ward - K west - Violators - 3,323 - Fine collected - Rs 6,64,600
Ward - A ward Violators - 1,897 Fine collected - Rs 3,79,400
Ward - H west Violators - 816 Fine collected - Rs 1,63,200
Ward - D ward Violators - 736 Fine collected - Rs 1,47,200