The Maharashtra government’s decision allowing lakhs of residents from Mumbai, Thane and Pune to head home for the 10-day Ganesh festival in their hometowns and villages in Ratnagiri and other districts in Konkan is a major cause for concern
Ashok Kumar | Clarion India
MUMBAI – As lakhs of residents from Mumbai, Pune and other cities in Maharashtra head for Ratnagiri district to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, there are fears about the impact it will have on the grim Covid-19 situation.
The Maharashtra government, which has since the outbreak of Covid been cautious in allowing movement of people within the state, took a decision to let lakhs of residents head to Ratnagiri.
One of the reasons for this is that the Shiv Sena, which is in power in the state along with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, has a strong following in Konkan region. Lakhs of its supporters in Mumbai head to Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg to celebrate the 10-day Ganesh festival. More than 3 lakh people travel every year to their home towns in the Konkan from Mumbai and other cities days before the Ganesh festival.
This year, the 10-day festival begins on August 22. Many of the villages in Ratnagiri wanted visitors from the cities to be quarantined for two weeks, especially since most of them are from the Covid hotspots of Mumbai, Thane and Pune. But after pressures from political parties, this was reduced to 10 days.
Dr Pravin Mundhe, Superintendent of Police, Ratnagiri, told Clarion India on Monday the number of Covid cases continue to rise in the district. According to him, there are 2,200 Covid cases in Ratnagiri, with 600 of them being active. There have been nearly 75 deaths in the district so far.
“Every day we get 50 to 60 new Covid cases,” said Mundhe. “People who come for the festival should take all the necessary precautions.”
The top police officer also reminded the residents to take these precautionary steps as the district, like the rest of the state, was in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Village heads in Ratnagiri district have also decided to be vigilant and impose restrictions on arrivals from Mumbai, Pune and other cities where Covid-19 has taken a huge toll.
The government has allowed state transport buses and even private ones to operate from these cities to Ratnagiri. MSRTC, the state-owned transporter will operate about 400 bus services to the district. Special trains are also being operated from Mumbai to Ratnagiri for a few days.
According to Anil Parab, Maharashtra’s transport minister, those travelling to Ratnagiri and the two other districts (Raigad and Sindhdurg) in Konkan after August 12 will have to undergo reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests two days before entering the region.
Only those with negatives in the swab tests will be allowed to enter the districts, he added.
But residents in Ratnagiri and other parts of Konkan remain worried about the impact the massive influx of visitors from Covid-hit Mumbai, Thane and Pune will have on the region, which has also been experiencing heavy rainfall over the past few days.