On 26 March, a team of government officials visited the home of Zarina Akhtar, a 68-year-old resident of Ramganj, a Muslim-dominated locality in Jaipur. Akhtar lives in a four-storey house deep inside the densely packed lanes of Ramganj. The officials asked for information about her family members—their names, ages and if there were people aged above 60 living in her home.
Akhtar said she and several others in the neighbourhood were apprehensive and suspicious of the team. Earlier in the month, Akhtar and other women from the area had participated in a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. The Ramganj residents thought the team’s visit was connected to the CAA and the NRC. “We had known that government officials conducting the NRC would want to know similar details from us. There was this suspicion of their activities and many people from the area were reluctant to cooperate with them,” Akhtar said. The government officials were in fact conducting house-to-house surveys to monitor the outbreak of COVID-19 in the area after a resident in the locality tested positive for the virus.
Ramganj is located inside Jaipur’s walled city. With a population of at least three lakh people, it is among the most densely-populated areas in the city. It has now become a hotspot for the COVID-19 outbreak in Jaipur. As of 22 April, Rajasthan had 1,868 COVID-19 positive cases, with 723 in Jaipur. According to the Rajasthan health minister Raghu Sharma, of these at least 525 are from Ramganj.
Local health officials told me that screening patients in the area had been difficult. “Screening and contact tracing in Ramganj and nearby areas has been a herculean task,” Meena Ahuja, a medical officer at Ramganj, said. “When we started enquiring about the number of residents and details of elderly, most of the households were non-cooperative. They not only returned us empty handed but also doubted our intentions. They thought we are there for something else. But we had to intensify door-to-door surveys.” Referring to Auxiliary Nurse Midwifes, and Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHA workers, she added, “We have deployed 250 teams. Each team is comprised of three members, an ANM, ASHA Sahyogini and a constable. Now we have also started taking the support of local influencers for door-to-door survey.” In addition, around 1,100 policemen have been deployed to enforce the lockdown and assist frontline health workers.