Mumbai: The worst nightmare of Mumbaikars came true when Dharavi, Asia's biggest slum, nestling in the belly of Mumbai, reported the first COVID-19 (coronavirus) causality late on Wednesday night while another was found positive on Thursday.

The 46-year-old man, who lived in a building constructed under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme, had no foreign travel history, said a health official of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Mumbai: The worst nightmare of Mumbaikars came true when Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slum, nestling in the belly of Mumbai, reported the first COVID-19 (coronavirus) causality late on Wednesday night while another was found positive on Thursday. The 46-year-old man, who lived in a building constructed under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme, had no foreign […]

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The deceased, who had a garment shop in Dharavi, developed symptoms like cough, cold and fever on March 23 and was admitted to hospital on March 26.

After the man died at the nearby government-run Sion Hospital, some 300 tenements in the building and around 90 shops were cordoned off by police. Besides, residents of the building were quarantined at home.

A civic official said they have also planned periodic spraying of disinfectants in the area, while the police have restricted people's movement there to control spread of COVID-19.

"All high-risk contacts of the deceased have been stamped and quarantined. The swab samples of his family members and some building residents have been sent for testing," he said, adding that all senior citizens and people with respiratory illness in the building will also undergo tests.

No one will be allowed to go out of the building till the time test results of high-risk contacts come out, he said.

"The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is going to provide food and ration to residents of the building," the official said.

The BMC has demarcated around 146 such containment zones in the metropolis where they have either found one or more COVID-19 patients or suspects, to contain the spread of the pandemic, he said.

In a 'containment zone', police limit people's access by barricading the area.

Started as a small settlement way back in 1880, Dharavi - literally meaning 'quick-sand' - is spread across barely 2.25 sq. kms of prime real estate in the city, housing around 200,000 families, plus a host of small or cottage industries functional 24x7, and with most common toilets.

In some places, the slums are as tall as two, three or four-storied structures, and there are a few resettlement colonies, slum housing schemes dotting the place, with little or no open spaces.

"It is this congestion that makes Dharavi most vulnerable in pandemics like COVID-19. The norms of 'social distancing' don't exist in a place where often 8-10 persons live in a 100 sq. feet tenement, people queue up for basics like water supply or toilets, ration shops, etc," said a local plastic businessman Salim Shaikh, living in Antop Hill.

Sprawling from Mahim on Western Railway (WR) to Sion-Matunga stations on Central Railway, a portion of the city's Mithi River drains into the Arabian Sea through the Mahim Creek in Dharavi.

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Besides the families from all over India who have made Dharavi their home since the past over 135 years of its existence, the area boasts of over 20,000 small-medium business units ranging from textiles to fabrication, pottery to leather, recycling, plastics, etc, generating an estimated Rs 7000 crore per annum.

In fact, some of the goods manufactured here, especially in the leather and artefacts segments, command a global market for their superior quality.

The 2008 British film by Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire", which bagged 8 Oscars, was set against the backdrop of Dharavi and had many children actually picked up from the periphery of this slum.

Earlier, a Bollywood National Award Winning thriller, "Dharavi" (1993) by Sudhir Mishra had hit the silver screens, and over the years many Indian films have been shot with Dharavi as the thematic backdrop.

Prior to that, an Australian convict on the run, Gregory David Roberts, escaped to India around 1980 and after spending many years hiding in Mumbai slums, penned his experiences in a book, "Shantaram" (2003), which proved to be a runaway hit.

This spurred enthusiastic locals to launch the world's first 'slum tours' including one called 'SlumGod Tours', who enjoy a regular international clientele, comprising intellectuals and the elite, all excitedly slumming it out in Dharavi.

With the death of the Dharavi-resident, the coronavirus death toll increased to 17 and positive cases rose from 335 to 338 in Maharashtra.

(With agency inputs)

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