No entry for Covid: How housing societies in Pune, against all odds, kept the virus out
HT meets the “groundsmen”, the “captains” and the “fielders” of these residential complexes to understand how Covid-19 was kept outUpdated: Sep 25, 2020, 16:13 IST
The city’s Covid-19 case count 1,47,634, as of Thursday, leaves little doubt that few areas and even fewer multi-apartment housing societies can claim to be unaffected by the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes the infection.
As the virus has claimed 5,478 lives since the first recorded case in Pune in March, housing societies have worked hard to build a common, societal response to ensure virus-protective norms issued by the authorities have been met.
Aapla Ghar society in Kirkatwadi and Konark nagar in Vimannagar and Astonia Society in Balewadi are three such housing complexes that for all the Covid data indicators, have kept the virus out… so far.
No residential member of these three housing societies have contracted the virus yet.
HT meets the “groundsmen”, the “captains” and the “fielders” of these residential complexes to understand how Covid-19 was kept out.
Aapla Ghar society, Kirkatwadi, 88 apartments, 125 residents
“Ever since the lockdown, we stopped entry of persons from outside. For daily needs and eatables we called vendors to the gate and everything was distributed at the gate. From eggs and chicken to groceries, everything was distributed at the gate,” said Yogita Bagnikar, ex-chairperson, who took on a lead role during the last six months.
Bagnikar made sure that even orders from D-mart were made in bulk, at one time, the distribution of which was controlled by the society.
“Avoiding contact with outsiders and strict protocols of not leaving the home without gloves and masks made things easy to manage,” added Bagnikar.
Ninety per cent of houses have stopped maids coming in to work for the last six months.
“Only in exceptional cases, where there are toddlers or only senior citizens, maids are allowed. We will allow maids once the situation becomes normal. Most have still continued ‘half payment’ to maids as financial support,” explained Bagnikar, who also is the administrator of the Aapla Ghar WhatsApp group where all information is relayed to residents.
Thermal scanning at the gates and sanitisation points within the society are the other de riguer measures in place.
“Residents who leave the society premises sanitise themselves completely before coming back into the building premises,” Bagnikar claims.
“It is the support of people from within the society which has made things possible for us. We ensure that no one breaks the protocol,” said Poonam Savarkar, a resident.
“We had vendors for all essential services like milk, fruits, vegetable. The biggest challenge was in initial days to get people used to the new norms. The committee did a fantastic job in our building, said Shabana Shaikh, a resident. The Shaikh family has five members living in the society.
Konark Nagar, Vimannagar, 131 row houses; 23 buildings, 518 apartments
For Konark Nagar in Viman nagar, early precautionary measures played a trump card as the society has 518 families and a population of 1,500.
“We were monitoring the rise in the number of Covid in other countries. Our management was alert and started a discussion regarding precautionary measures early on. We cancelled all Holi celebrations and stopped outsiders from entering the society,” explains Sandeep Singh, chairman of Konark Nagar, who has a PhD in Agriculture.
“My agriculture background helped me and we started quickly spraying a disinfectant – sodium hypochlorite and viroxide - in the society, every day, thrice,” says Singh.
Special care was given to senior citizens, who make up 30 per cent of the complex’s residents.
“Strict controls on the movement of senior citizens was kept and door delivery services were provided to them,” adds Singh. “I kept myself busy with gardening. Being a senior citizen, we were treated very well by society members,” said Lakshmi Narain Batra, 81, former assistant works manager, Ammunition Factory Khadki.
The society allowed watchmen to stay on premises.
For the first two months – April and May – maids were not allowed to go home and lived on the society premises.
“We then increased the salaries of maids and it has ensured that they will only work at our society and go home. They agreed as they also wanted to secure themselves against the virus,” says Singh.
Astonia Society, Balewadi, 96 apartments
“We have created our own bubble” is how Vaishali Kambli, a resident who shifted to Astonia Society, two months before the virus broke out, explains it in one sentence.
“Only going out, if it is very urgent is the protocol followed by all. And since we are a little far out from the city, we have managed to keep social distancing norms with ease,” adds Kambli.
Currently, at Astonia, if any renovation, or moving of residence has to be done, no more than four persons are allowed to work together at a time.
“Even after work is completed, the person who hired the workers has to sanitise all areas where the work, and the workers, operated,” added Kambli.