Mayur Vihar’s efforts to end containment rules end in police case
From lighting candles to marching their children wearing black bands, from banging plates to switching off lights, residents of a containment zone in east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar have done it all over the past few days in an effort to get their neighbourhood unlocked.
One such protest march on Saturday with lighted candles and torchlights ended in the police registering a case against them for allegedly violating social distancing norms.
While the police action may have stopped further protest marches, it hasn’t stopped residents of A-3 pocket in Mayur Vihar Phase-3 -- a neighbourhood mostly inhabited by a large number of working professionals -- from continuing to draw the attention of authorities to what they term a “desperate situation in which people are losing their jobs”.
“Today (Tuesday) evening, the children of our neighbourhood will stand outside their homes wearing black bands and holding placards. There has not been a single positive Covid-19 case in our neighbourhood after June 24, yet, we are being contained inside a small colony,” said the residents welfare association president, Rajkumar Upadhyay, who has been named as an accused in the police case.
While the FIR mentions only Upadhyay’s name, the police said they have booked a host of unknown people as well, belonging to Group-13 of the A-3 pocket.
The A-3 pocket consists of 128 houses and was turned into a containment zone on June 5, after nine residents tested positive for Covid-19. “By June 16, all infected persons tested negative for Covid-19 and, on June 24, antigen tests were conducted on all residents,” said Upadhyay.
There are around 350 people living in the 128 houses, and about 275 of them took the antigen tests. “There were a few cancer patients, some senior citizens and a few children who didn’t take the tests. But at least one member from each occupied house took the test,” said Upadhyay.
But the fact that a few chose not to take the antigen tests made matters difficult for the neighbourhood. A senior government official, on condition of anonymity, said some respite could have been given to the colony had every single resident taken the test.
Upadhyay said while he would welcome the authorities getting all residents tested, those who didn’t go for the test were those who feared contracting the infection from the test centre. “These are people who have remained completely secluded all this while. They don’t want to risk catching the virus by visiting a testing centre,” said Upadhyay.
In any case, the antigen tests results threw up one more positive case. While the new patient was sent to a quarantine centre in nearby Mandoli, the containment plan of the neighbourhood was extended by another 28 days in keeping with the government rules on de-containment.
According to the rules, if a new Covid-19 patient is detected in a containment zone, then the containment plan starts all over again for 28 days.
But this rule has left residents agitated.
“If none of our residents was going out since the past 20 days, and if the infected patients have recovered nine days before the other residents underwent antigen testing, then the only way a person got infected was through the milk, vegetables and other ration that are being supplied to us. How do we know that our neighbourhood won’t be turned into a containment zone again and again?” said Upadhyay.
But Arun Mishra, district magistrate of East Delhi, said the authorities were only going by the rules.
“We are following the rules, but at the same time viewing their problems from a humanitarian point of view. We are discussing with higher authorities on ways to deal with such situations,” said the DM.
Talking about Saturday’s march, Upadhyay said, about 50 residents held lighted candles and phone torchlights and marched towards the neighbourhood gates. “We maintained a gap of one metre between each person. Four people took turns to march till about 20 feet from the barricades and left our candles there as a mark of protest,” he said.
But the police said there was no social distancing during the march. “One man was walking between the queues to click photos, not maintaining any distance in the process. We don’t mind them protesting inside houses and from balconies, but walking out in large numbers is against their own interest,” said a senior police officer, who didn’t want to be identified.
Jasmeet Singh, deputy commissioner of police (east), said a case under four sections of the Indian Penal Code and one section of the Pandemic Act has been registered at Ghazipur police station.
“They were not maintaining social distancing,” said the DCP. The most stringent section under which the FIR has been registered is Section 270 of the IPC which pertains to “malignant act that can spread a disease”. If convicted for this offence, the maximum punishment is two years in jail.