Women and children in the slum of Ulhasnagar in Maharashtra’s Thane district were found packing sticks used for swab tests or RT-PCR tests without following Covid-19 protocols. It was discovered that women and children involved in the packing were not wearing face masks and hand gloves. The kits were being packed in an unhygienic environment, thus putting the lives of many at risk.
On Tuesday, active locals from Khemani Sant Dyneshwar Nagar in Ulhasnagar, found two kids busy packing the swab sticks. It was found that more than ten houses have been enrolled in this work by contractors without following safety measures like wearing a mask or using sanitizer or gloves. The alert citizens prepared a video and have now made it viral.
Sources claim that after the video went viral, the FDA and local police reached the locality and have seized the materials and have started the investigation. The state Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with health officials of Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC) and local police, on Wednesday raided 10 houses in Ulhasnagar’s Khemani slum.
The ‘packers’ claimed they had no idea about the product given by the contractor Manish Keshwani. The swab kits are prepared at a firm based in Ambernath and through contractors, it reaches the slum for packing. “Many of them are jobless and are in need of cash. We are paid Rs 20 for packing 1000 sticks. A single person does 5,000 such packing per day getting Rs 100. If we are five people at home we earn Rs 500 a day. We enroll nearby kids who rather than playing mobile do times to get pocket money,” said a 30-year-old woman busy packing the sticks.
Being a slum, almost every other person was seen bringing the box to their houses that were completely filled with the packing material. However, Ulhasnagar being known for duplicate items, the locals demand a proper investigation by the police. Pravin Malve, a local activist said, “If a citizen walks out of his home without a mask he is penalised for it. The FDA and local police should take action against the contractor who brought it to the slum and also the firm that had violated the covid norms,” he added.
Police have filed an FIR against Keshwani under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act. Keshwani had taken most of the packed testing kits the previous night, said additional municipal commissioner Varuna Juikar.
During the raid, the officials also found a few packets with the name ‘Bio Swab’ written on them. “No company named Bio Swab is registered with the FDA. The seized packets did not have any batch number or manufacturing or expiry date,” an FDA official told TOI. “Only after police nab Keshwani will we be able find out which company was manufacturing the kits and where they were to be supplied.”
Dr Rupinder Murjani, who runs a private lab in Kalyan, said FDA should take strict action against those who gave such crucial testing products for packaging to people without instructions on the protocol as it could compromise test-takers Covid results. Yuvraj Badane, Public Relation Officer and Deputy Municipal Commissioner of Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation said, “The corporation gets the swab kit from the state government. We can’t take action or raid the spot. But as it was found in our jurisdiction, our team along with police visited the spot and gathered details. We have sent further details to the Food and Drugs Administration who will take further action against them.”