Mumbai: A day after a 40-year-old woman complained of alleged rape while under institutional quarantine for Covid in Navi Mumbai’s Panvel taluka, she is still being kept in the same facility despite testing negative for the virus.
The 25-year-old accused is also kept in the same quarantine centre amid security cover as he has tested Covid-positive. The Panvel taluka police booked the accused Friday for allegedly raping the woman on 16 July after she registered a complaint.
“The victim has tested Covid-negative. She is still in the same quarantine facility. The accused is there too, but they are kept at different places. It is a large facility,” said Ashok Rajput, senior police inspector at the Panvel taluka police station.
He, however, refused to comment on when the woman is likely to be discharged.
The quarantine facility is located in a cluster of unused high rises at Panvel taluka’s Kon village in a residential complex of Indiabulls Realty.
A Panvel civic official said the capacity of the quarantine facility is about 2,000 and it is used by several neighbouring local bodies and district authorities, including the Panvel Municipal Corporation (PMC). The woman was admitted to the centre by the PMC.
Sudhakar Deshmukh, Panvel municipal commissioner, said, “Whether the victim is to be moved or kept there is now a part of the police’s course of action in the investigation.”
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Ashok Dudhe, deputy police commissioner, Zone 2, Navi Mumbai Police, said, “Right now she is there itself. Whether she is to be moved out or not is the doctor’s decision.”
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Accused’s mother & brother quarantined in same facility
According to officials from the Panvel taluka police station, the woman was quarantined on the fifth floor of the facility at the time of the incident while the accused was on the second floor.
“On 15 July, the accused got food for his brother who was quarantined in the facility. But, he accidentally went to the victim’s room. The accused’s mother was also housed there. Later on, he was quarantined at the centre too as he was a high-risk contact,” said an official from the Panvel taluka police on condition of anonymity.
The incident allegedly took place the next evening.
The official added the accused is an unemployed youth from a modest middle-class background. The woman is a home-maker and the wife of an auto-rickshaw driver.
‘Centre had security, no one was allowed inside rooms’
The police said personnel from the Maharashtra Security Guards Board were posted at the entrance to the complex, but there weren’t any security guards for individual buildings.
“We have 70-80 of our civic staff there, including the nurses, ward boys, cleaners and so on. All those who go inside the quarantine facilities are given PPE kits, and absolutely no one is allowed to go inside rooms. Every person is allotted a separate room,” Deshmukh said.
He added the doctors too wear PPE kits and usually take rounds once a day, but don’t necessarily check up on every patient inside the rooms each day.
“No one is allowed to knock on the doors of women under institutional quarantine more than two times. Every person kept under quarantine is given a full kit, including brooms and other cleaning accessories for their rooms. When food is served, our staff just keeps it outside the doors and there is an announcement in the building,” Deshmukh said.
He said until now the corporation has been keeping families together in quarantine, but will have to now take a policy decision to keep men and women at separate locations.
“No one had anticipated that something like this can happen, especially when the mother and brother of the accused were in the same facility with him. Now, we will be compelled to break up families, even husband and wife, and keep them in separate places for quarantine,” Deshmukh said.
“It is shameful,” he added.
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