Amidst the rising fears surrounding the spread of the coronavirus, a cancer patient from North East India was denied entry in a flat in Mulund society in Mumbai over the apprehensions of the virus assuming him to be Chinese national.
Dorji Rinzin, 74, whose chemotherapy at Tata hospital was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, was left in a limbo of uncertainty when he was told on Monday that he couldn’t enter the Sainath Estates, where a flat owned by Bombay Friendship Centre owned is offered as free accommodation to patients, activists and self-help groups.
Tsering Yangzom, daughter of Rinzin, who has accompanied him for his treatment, said that the watchman at the society prevented them from entering. “We were denied entry into the society. The watchman said that we cannot get in as we were from China and might be infected by the dreaded virus,” she said. Tsering Yangzom further stated that they had stayed at the flat earlier for a month during his father’s treatment and the residents of the society had raised no objection then. “The last time we were here, no one had protested against our staying in the society. But this time around, they simply wouldn’t let us in. We have come all the way from Arunachal Pradesh for treatment and looking for a safe place for a stay,” she added. Despite showing documents that they were Indians, the society didn’t let them in.
After being denied entry to the society, Yangzom then approached the secretary of the Bombay Friendship Centre, Anil Hebbar, to sort out the issue with the society residents. However, the inhabitants told him that society is not allowing any outsiders amidst the coronavirus scare. “I spoke to the current and the former secretaries of the building who informed me that they were following the preventive measures announced by the Police and the BMC,” Hebbar said. “We have a flat on the seventh floor which we let to those who cannot afford a hotel during their stay in the city. Despite having valid documents, he was not allowed to enter the building this time,” said Anil Hebbar.
As the society members remained firm on their stand, refusing to allow Yangzom and her father in their society, Hebbar then arranged the accommodation for the father-daughter duo at a guest house operated by the Arunachal Pradesh government in Navi Mumbai. However, they had to commute a long distance to reach the hospital.
Later the members of the housing society claimed that they were denied entry not because of coronavirus scare, but because the NGO had not informed about them in advance. Kashinath Gaikwad, one of the committee members, said, “we had already summoned Anil Hebbar for sending people to the flat without prior intimation a month ago. But, the NGO does not care about it. This is a housing society, not a lodge,” he said.
He said that “during this tough time, if they accommodate anyone from another state, who would guarantee they are clean. We requested them to make some other arrangements for the time being. We have sympathy for the patient, but we cannot do anything about it.”
Before long, the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu, took cognisance of the matter and posted on Twitter today that his office has taken up the matter and coordination is being done.
One of the health department officials privy to the matter said that action will be taken against the society members for restricting Mr Rinzin and his daughter’s stay at the society. “The government has been clear about its instructions regarding the preventive measures to be followed. It has not asked to place restrictions on patients’ accommodation. We will thoroughly investigate the matter and take action against the guilty,” the official said.
Later police issued orders that Rinzin can stay at the society, and once he is able to move, he will be shifted there.