Asia’s largest slum in Mumbai is seeing a reverse migration of low-cost labour back to their native states amid fear of surging cases of COVID-19 in the city.
Generating an annual revenue of 1 billion U.S. dollars, the slum has around 5,000 small-businesses and 15,000 single-room factories with home cum workplace of potters, tanners, weavers, tailors, soap makers, and it also has a massive recycling industry of metals and plastic scrap.
While the rest of Mumbai city with white-collar employment have opted for work-from-home, those in Dharavi slum have preferred to leave home-cum workplace for their native state fearing their life.
The slum, spread over 613 hectares with an estimated population of 1 million, is home to low-paid migrant labors from other states of India and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to their exodus back to their native states.
Of the 500,000 migrants registered with Mumbai police to leave the city for their home states, over 25 percent or 130,000 people are from the Dharavi slum.
Amid all the chaos, Mumbai’s civic authority has increased the number of close contacts of a COVID-19 patient to be tested and quarantine to 15 from five earlier in the slum, according to civic officials.
These efforts are seen bearing fruit as the Dharavi slum has managed to increase its doubling rate of positive cases to 21 days from three days earlier, which is much better than city’s average doubling rate of 14 days, they said.
As per the latest available update, Dharavi slum has 1,541 confirmed cases with 60 deaths reported so far out of the over 30,000 cases in Mumbai city.
However, with migrant workers having left in large numbers and unlikely to return in near future, the entire eco-system of the slum is also disrupted.