Social distancing is a luxurious myth in Pune slums
The special police officers (SPOs) appointed by the Pune police are providing support to people living in slums
There is no sliver of space in Prakash Salve’s house for social distancing. The 40-year-old man lives with his family in a small room at Tadiwala road slum.
A spot check by HT on Monday to congested slum areas like Tadiwala road, Patil Estate, Lakshminagar and Lumbininagar revealed that social distancing is not a realistic expectation here. Families with 4-6 members live in a space whose hallway does not allow for two people to stand shoulder-to-shoulder.
Salve who had just come out of his home to see why the people have gathered said, “There is a lot of rush in the area simply because the heat does not allow for a comfortable isolation.” When asked where his house was, he walked 4-5 steps and stopped, pointing towards his residence - a tin-roof structure that emanated heat. The luxury of social distancing was clearly not for him.
The special police officers (SPOs) appointed by the Pune police are providing support to people living in slums.
“We have identified 48 lanes on private road and groups of lanes in Tadiwala road. There are 20 SPOs who work as leaders with multiple subordinates. There is a group for vegetable delivery, meat and eggs, food grains, and medicines. There are lane-wise groups where the placed orders are recorded. So the SPOs will go to the houses, take the money - mostly through Google Pay - and place the orders. The appointed leaders collect the money and give it to the sellers,” said assistant police inspector Amol Kale of Tadiwala police outpost in the jurisdiction of Bundgarden police station.
“There are people on the streets, true. But it is much less than what it used to be four-five days ago,” says Raju Kamble, one of the SPOs.
According to API Kale who manages the SPOs, there are hardly 35-40 policemen for the settlement of over 1 lakh people.
The scenario was similar in at Patil Estate which has a population of a few thousands.
“The aim is to ensure that if the infection has spread, it remains inside the micro-clusters like these places. The help will reach inside. The SPOs are force multipliers since police cannot possibly reach everywhere,” said joint commissioner of police Ravindra Shisve.
Some of the people in the congested areas, who are willing, will also be provided accommodation in shelters which the PMC is in process of identifying, said Joint CP Shisve.
The crime branch, led by additional commissioner of police (crime) Ashok Morale, are in the process of recruiting more SPOs. The police aim to reach a strength of over 5,000 SPOs in the next two-three days, according to Morale. The crime branch is also in the process of making an explainer video for dos and donts and safety tips for SPOs.