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How Covid hotspot Dharavi is chasing the virus away

Preeti Sompura

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Mumbai’s Dharavi
Mumbai’s Dharavi

Dharavi, world’s largest slum in Mumbai, which was earlier seen as the worst-hit coronavirus hotspot, has now become an exemplary model which is winning its hardest battle against the pandemic. The efforts of the Maharashtra government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) which aggressively launched ‘Chase the Virus’ campaign and conducted targeted tracing of Covid suspects have shown encouraging results.

Being densely populated (2,27,136 people / sq. km), Dharavi had 491 cases in April 2020 with a 12% growth rate and a case doubling period of 18 days. The proactive measures adopted by BMC reduced the Covid-19 growth rate to 4.3% in May 2020 and further to 1.02% in June. These measures also ensured an improved case doubling time to 43 days in May 2020 and 78 days in June 2020.

Several challenges appeared before BMC in Dharavi where 80% population depends on community toilets. About 8-10 people live in households/hutment which measures about 10ftx10ft coupled with existence of narrow lanes with 2-3 storied houses where often the ground floor is a house, and other floors are used as factories. Hence, there were severe limitations of physical distancing with no possibility of effective ‘home quarantine’.

BMC adopted a model of actively following four Ts — Tracing, Tracking, Testing and Treating. This approach included activities like proactive screening. While 47,500 people were covered by doctors and private clinics in house-to-house screening, about 14,970 people were screened with the help of mobile vans, and 4,76,775 were surveyed by BMC health workers. Fever clinics were set up for screening high risk categories such as elderly/senior citizens. This helped to screen 3.6 lakh people. Also, around 8,246 senior citizens were surveyed and as part of its policy of ‘timely separation’, they were separated from the other community to effectively limit the transmission of the disease. In all, 5,48,270 people have been screened in Dharavi. The suspected cases were shifted to well organised Covid Care centres and quarantine centres.

To tackle the issue of manpower to carry out proactive screening in high risk zones, BMC forged strategic public private partnerships in containment measures and all available ‘private’ practitioners were mobilized. It provided the private doctors with PPE Kits, thermal scanners, pulse oximeters, masks and gloves and started door-to-door screening in high risk zones and all suspects were identified. BMC encouraged all practitioners to open their clinics to attend to the patients and communicate to them in case any Covid-19 suspects were found. It sanitised the clinics of the private practitioners and provided them all necessary support. To augment health infrastructure in the city, all private hospitals were brought onboard and acquired for treatment.

As the option of home quarantine could not effectively produce the desired outcomes due to the space limitations in the congested area, institutional quarantine facilities were created in all available schools, marriage halls, sports complexes, etc. These were provided with a ‘Community Kitchen’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner, round the clock access to medical services, necessary medicines and equipment.

A salient feature of BMC’s Covid-19 response strategy is strict enforcement of containment measures which has three primary components: an effective containment strategy; conducting comprehensive testing; and ensuring uninterrupted supply of goods and essential supplies to the community. Only critical patients were moved outside Dharavi for admission to hospitals; 90% of the patients were treated inside Dharavi itself. BMC also distributed more than 25,000 grocery kits and more than 21,000 food packets for lunch and dinner separately within the containment zones so people stayed inside and did not have the need to move out, thereby curbing spread of the virus. Food and grocery were also supplied and distributed free of cost by local MLAs, MPs and corporators. In addition, there was frequent disinfection of the containment area and community toilets. MSRTC buses were operated for facilitating staff conveyance. The high-risk zone was sealed from all sides and community leaders were appointed as a ‘Covid Yoddha’ to address all issues of the community and to act as a bridge between the health workers and the community.

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Kashmir: 2 terrorists killed, arms and ammunition recovered

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Security forces

 In a joint operation, Indian security forces gunned down two terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the Anantnag district of South Kashmir. LeT is headed by UNdesignated global terrorist Hafiz Saeed and operates mainly from Pakistan. “Two LeT terrorists killed, incriminating material including arms and ammunition recovered. Search going on, further details shall follow,” said Jammu and Kashmir police in a tweet. 

Chinar corps-Indian Army in a tweet said, “#Update Op Sirhama, Anantnag. Two terrorists killed. One AK and one INSAS rifle recovered. Joint operation in progress.” The firefight between the terrorists and the security forces started in the Sirhama area on Thursday evening after security forces cordoned off the area and launched a search operation on the basis of specific information about the presence of terrorists. As the security forces zeroed in on the spot, where the terrorists were hiding, they came under a heavy volume of fire that triggered the encounter.

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Andhra govt to provide special health cards for animals

Lokeswara Rao

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Andhra Minister

To provide top-notch health care services to all the animals, the Jagan Mohan government in Andhra Pradesh is now giving out health cards to over 1 crore livestock in the state.

 In order to elevate the animal husbandry industry in the state to the next level, the Animal Husbandry department is actively educating the farmers about the best practices followed across the world. Using these health cards, the owners can avail a wide range of necessary healthcare services at the village level, without having to pay a penny.

 The department has also taken up the responsibility of training the breeders via a special course called the ‘Pasu Vignana Badi’, which consists of practical training in the form of demonstrations, apart from imparting theoretical knowledge. 

The Pasu Vignana Badi acts as an encyclopedia for Animal Husbandry related aspects. Right from the Do’s and Don’ts to best practices, everything will be taught to the farmers via the Pasu Vignana Badi. Its main objective is to impart training and render extension services to the farmers at the village level through a low cost, lean structure model, to evaluate present practices adopted by the farmers and suggest suitable improved practices. 

The government has entered into an MoU with Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) to strengthen the Dairy Co-operative societies at the village and district levels by involving women of the village, farmers, producers and other organisations. Steps are being taken to establish Milk Collection Centres at various RBKs and to market hygienic milk products through Co-operative societies.

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Manipur CM inducts 5 new ministers, drops 6 in Cabinet reshuffle

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N Biren Singh

In a major political development, two ex-MLAs got ministerial berths as Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh finally effected a major cabinet reshuffle in his three and a half years council of ministers on Friday amid resentment within the BJP-led coalition government.

 Biren Singh is heading a coalition government of the BJP, NPP, Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the LJP. Singh dropped six cabinet ministers-3 from BJP, 2 from NPP and the lone LJP minister and inducted five new faces, reducing the strength of his council of ministers to 11.

 Governor Najma Heptulla in a ceremony at the Raj Bhavan administered the oath of office to the five new ministers — Sorokhaibam Rajen, Vungzagin Valte, Oinam Lukhoi Singh, Thokcham Satyabrata Singh and Okram Henry Singh. 

The NPP had four ministers in the BJP-led government in the northeastern state and the party had on Wednesday decided in a meeting that it will come out of the coalition ministry if anyone is dropped from the cabinet. 

Social Welfare and Cooperation Minister Nemcha Kipgen was the only woman minister in the 12-member cabinet led by Biren Singh.

 The Chief Minister had gone to New Delhi with BJP state president S. Tikendra Singh on September 21 and met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other central leaders.

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Youth found murdered in Telangana’s Sangareddy, honour killing suspected

Lokeswara Rao

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In a shocking case of alleged honour killing, a youth from Hyderabad was kidnapped and murdered allegedly by the family members of his wife for marrying her against their wish. The body of Hemant Kumar, 28, was found in Sangareddy district near Hyderabad. 

Hemant and his wife Avanti were kidnapped by a group of people from their house in TNGO colony in Gachibowli area around 3 p.m. on Thursday. 

While Avanti managed to escape from their clutches by jumping out of a car, they took her husband to the city outskirts and murdered him. 

Hyderabad police have reportedly arrested 12 people in connection with “the kidnap and murder”. They include Avanti’s maternal uncle, cousins and hired killers. 

Hemant and Avanti were neighbours and fell in love about eight years ago. While they wanted to marry but the girl’s family, belonging to an upper caste, was opposed to the marriage.

 Avanti’s parents locked her in the home in November last year and were looking for another alliance. She later managed to escape and on 10 June this year, Hemant and Avanti entered into the wedlock at a temple in BHEL. 

As the couple faced threats from Avanti’s family, they approached Cyberabad Police Commissioner V. C. Sajjanar, who referred the matter to Chandanagar police station. Both sides were called to the police station and Avanti’s family was told not to trouble the couple. 

However, on Thursday a group of more than 10 people in three cars reached Hemant’s house and asked the couple to come with them. 

“We were told that they want to discuss the issue and we boarded the cars. After a few minutes I realized that we have been kidnapped and I jumped out of the car,” Avanti told reporters.

 However, the car carrying Hemant sped away towards Outer Ring Road. Though Avanti and Hemant’s parents alerted police, the vehicle could not be traced and the youth’s family was informed by police early Friday that his body was found in a field near Patancheru in Sangareddy district. 

This is the second such sensational case of honour killing in the state in two years. Earlier, Pranay, (24), a Dalit youth was hacked to death by a hired killer in full public view when he along with his wife Amrutha and mother were coming out of a private hospital in Miryalaguda on September 14, 2018. The sensational murder was caught on a CCTV camera. Amrutha’s father Maruthi Rao, who was against the marriage, had struck the deal to kill Pranay for Rs 1 crore. 

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Farmers protest in unique way against farm bills in Tamil Nadu

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With growing opposition against the Farm Bills, protests were held in various cities of Tamil Nadu on Friday as part of the nation-wide bandh against the “farm reforms”. Led by the Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association President P. Ayyakannu, farmers sat outside the Collector’s office in Trichy with human skulls, chained hands, and nooses around their necks to demonstrate against the Agri Bills passed by the parliament.

 Farmers also protested against the Bills in Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Tiruppur and Namakkal districts. In Nagapattinam district and at a couple of other places, members of the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist protested on the roads against the Bills. In Tambaram near here, farmers and members of the CPI-M also protested against the Bills. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister R. Doraikkannu said the Bills will not impact the farmers in Tamil Nadu.

 According to Agriculture Secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi, it was Tamil Nadu that first brought in a law for contract farming in the country, and he also assured that the farmers will get the contracted price from the corporates irrespective of market fluctuations. Chief Minister K. Palaniswami has also supported the Bills, saying they are beneficial for the state’s farmers.

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Farmer’s pain will hopefully reach the central government, says Captain Amarinder

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CM Captain Amarinder Singh.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday said that the pain of agitating farmers, who braved the pandemic and the heat to protest against the agriculture bills, will hopefully reach the central government and expressed hope that it will gracefully back off from its decision regarding these bills.

 “Maybe the distressing visuals of tens of hundreds of farmers out on the roads at hundreds of locations in Punjab, and in several other states, will touch the hearts of the central leadership,” the Chief Minister said adding that perhaps the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will now realize its folly. 

Reiterating his commitment to fight the farm bills till his last breath, Captain Amarinder also urged the President of India not to give his assent to the bills. The bills, if implemented, will have devastating effects for the border state of Punjab, as well as for the entire nation, he warned, charging the Centre with ignoring the farmer’s concerns to promote the interests of their capitalist cronies.

 The Chief Minister said that his government, along with the Punjab Congress, will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the farmers to oppose the bills, and will take whatever steps needed, including moving the courts, in the matter. 

He further said that the Akali double standards have been exposed by the fact that they continued to be a part of the ruling coalition at the Centre and had, till date, refused to even come out with any public criticism of the union government.

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