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PUNE

Kondhwa resident claims harassment from society despite testing COVID –ve

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44-year-old woman from upscale complex says secretary avoided seeing her recovery report, kept her name displayed on society board as infected person long after quarantine ended, scaring her visitors away; secy argues that she is just creating a ruckus

Even an entire long year after COVID-19 first marked its presence in the city and has consolidated into a new normal for people at large, conflicts over ostracism and housing society-level squabbles over handling of the infection continue to crop up.

Alleging the same kind of harassment, a 44-year-old female resident of one of Kondhwa’s posh societies has claimed that despite recovering from a mild COVID-19 infection and testing negative thereafter, she is still being persecuted and defamed by the society management, which continues to put restriction on her movement and access.

According to Konark Indrayu Enclave Phase-I resident Arti Trivedi, 10 days after testing negative for the coronavirus disease, her flat number continued to be displayed on the society’s common whiteboard as that of an infected person — till finally, she had to fight to take it down on Wednesday, and threatened to call the cops if the needful was not done.

Blaming society secretary Soumitra Sen particularly, Arti claims she has faced a number of issues for close to three weeks now, with visitors and even various service personnel being told to stay away from her house, adding to her woes.

Arti tested positive for COVID-19 on February 23. She says she had mild symptoms throughout, starting with a cold and loss of smell, which did not worsen much. On March 3, Arti says, she tested negative for COVID-19, and was looking forward to starting afresh by taking small steps. Maintaining protocol, Arti remained quarantined at home till March 10, she said, and then onwards started inviting back her maids, family and friends.

The Konark Indrayu Enclave Phase-I building has been facing these issues from February 23 or so; PIC: MANOJ BIDKAR

The Konark Indrayu Enclave Phase-I building has been facing these issues from February 23 or so; PIC: MANOJ BIDKAR

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However, she said, her flat number remained displayed at the society’s entrance till Tuesday (March 16). Arti claims that the secretary refused to cooperate and repeatedly asked for test reports — she says that when she tried to show him the same, he allegedly refused to meet her.

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Arti reasoned that when she found out she was infected last month, before she could let anyone in the society know the situation as per protocol, the civic authorities contacted the management and let them know, possibly leading to a misunderstanding. She narrated, “I am a single mother and instead of the society management understanding my issues, I have just faced constant harassment in this duration. I used to receive emails from the society secretary, reminding me of my infection and alleging that I have kept it hidden. All people who came over post-illness — including family, friends and other help (such as for AC installation) — were denied entry, and told to not come to my home as there is a positive case housed within, for which the society board was proof. I even called civic officials and asked whether it is compulsory to submit a physical/hard copy of reports to the society, and they said it’s not mandatory.”

However, sharing his side, secretary Sen insisted, “Arti didn’t bother to inform us about her infection and we only got to know directly from Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). We have to disclose the name of any COVID-19 positive person to keep others safe. We ensured that tiffins, medicines, milk, etc. reached the patient’s doorstep for no inconvenience. We didn’t allow visitors as we had not seen the negative report. We have had so many COVID patients in the society, but nobody has created a ruckus in this manner. She had not even informed us about testing positive in the first place.”

Arti countered that when she reached Sen’s place to show him the negative reports, he shooed her away and asked her to come later. She insists that both she and her children received no help from society members, and that the children had to keep going downstairs to collect essentials at a time when they should have been isolated. No visitors were allowed to come and place parcels at their doorstep either.

As late as on March 17, an AC repairman was scheduled to visit Arti’s place, but was taken aback to see her flat number in the active COVID-19 cases list on the whiteboard, and returned. Arti cites this among other examples of a false premise being projected against her, denying her all kinds of access.

Without revealing details about himself, a security guard here who called himself Kumar corroborated her story, saying, “A few days ago her (Arti’s) friend had come over and we were told by him (Sen) to send her back by telling her that Arti is positive. However, the visitor was later let in when Arti intervened. On Wednesday, an AC repairman came but left when he saw the board, despite us telling him she is negative now. We couldn’t do anything.”

The rest of Arti’s family also claims harassment. Her 22-year-old daughter, Ishita, said, “My brother and I tested negative and would step out only to pick up essentials from the society gate. Yet, there were allegations made that we are mixing with other people and my brother is playing with other children. At a time when our flat number was displayed and people kept getting messages about my mother’s COVID status, why would we risk this?”

Seemingly, there is some sympathy for their predicament in the complex. Haresh Shah, a resident of the society, said, “Thankfully, none of my family has been infected, but we have heard about people facing issues and unnecessary restrictions when found to be positive. Personally we feel names should be circulated as this creates stigma.” Another woman in the same society, who has tested positive at the moment, said, “The circulation of names adds to the depression of COVID-positive people, as others constantly remark on this and avoid them. The whole family gets affected. We have also not received any tiffins or medicines, as claimed.”

Asked about this case, PMC health chief Dr Ashish Bharati chose not to comment, but simply highlighted civic body guidelines for COVID-19 home isolation patients, saying those with mild symptoms must remain quarantined for 10-14 days.

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