Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slum

by Biju Veticad, AsiaNews

June 23 2020

The slum is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire was shot in its alleyways. It has reported less than 2,100 cases. Mumbai as a whole has had more than 60,000 cases. Infections have been contained by systematic testing and alley-level quarantine.

MUMBAI – Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slum, is a real success story in India’s fight against the coronavirus with less than 2,100 cases and 77 dead. Mumbai as a whole has had more than 60,000 cases.

With a population ranging between 1 to 1.2 million, in 2.1 sq. km, Dharavi is one of the world’s most densely populated areas.

The slum acquired world-wide fame thanks to Slumdog Millionaire, a movie that won eight Oscars in 2009 (including best film), which was shot in its alleyways.

Dharavi (Village of True Indians) is the first thing visitors see when they arrive by airplane in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, a place of contrasts, where India’s richest and poorest live next to each other.

At the start of the pandemic, the authorities feared that the slum could become a hub for the coronavirus. Instead, the number of infected slum dwellers continues to decline. Overall, 51 per cent of the residents who tested positive have recovered, compared to 41 per cent for the whole city.

For the Government of Maharashtra and city authorities, sweeping testing and timely quarantine measures have helped contain the virus. The medical staff were able to visit about 50,000 shacks, and test 700,000 people. New clinics have been set up in the slum.

According to Father Benny Thanninilkkum Thadathil, a priest in the Diocese of Kalyan, the authorities were able to plan effective health measures, despite the great obstacles they faced.

In particular, he explains that they could not quarantine single housing units, an operation deemed impossible, but did it in individual alleyways (gali). Each alleyway unit was separated and isolated from the others, with residents sharing toilets.

The authorities also banned selling fruits and vegetables in the streets. For this reason, the Diocese of Kalyan, through its charity (Karunya Trust), handed out groceries to the locals.