Data collection in Nizammuddin sparks unrest among residents

NEW DELHI: Government officials visited residents of Nizamuddin Basti, situated close to the Tablighi Jamaat’s headquarters at Banglewali Masjid, on Friday and asked them to fill up forms with details about their health conditions and travel histories.

This exercise sparked an unrest in parts of the area, with some people refusing to share details with the officials saying the data collection exercise was a “threat to their citizenship”.

Under its Disease Surveillance Programme, the Centre and the health department had sent out its officials, who went to every house in Nizamuddin Basti and asked people to fill up a form with ten questions and list the head of the family, details of the other members, whether any of them had shown symptoms of fever, cough or respiratory problems, contact and address details of the people they regularly meet, travel data of any place outside Delhi, data of doctors they consulted and history of medical illness among others.

Health officials said this was a regular practice in times of a suspected outbreak. The officials were assisted by experts in healthcare from the Aga Khan Foundation who asked the residents to “not hide any of their health issues, and get in touch with their Sehat Aapas” – 50 women in the basti who have been trained in handling the cases and could help them reach the hospital. A senior government official told ET that this was an attempt to “identify if there was any community transmission”. “Given its proximity to the Markaz, this is a potential hotspot. For necessary steps to be taken, the data is important,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Some residents of the basti, however, refused to fill out the form. Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an influential Muslim pressure group, popular in the area, came to speak with the officials, asking them the purpose of the visit.

“The doctors had come that day, and people with symptoms had self-identified themselves..They have all been quarantined. There is no need for written forms, mobile and address details… they can always speak to us and get details,” said a member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, who did not wish to be identified. “The entire basti has been cordoned off, people are staying at home. What is the need for outsiders to come and carry out such an extensive exercise with so many data points?”

The member said the basti’s residents were being visited by officials almost daily, and that every precaution was being followed. “Even the chemist shops have been told to have only three customers at any given time. We are only against unauthorised data collection,” he said. Residents of Nizamuddin East too got a notice from the health department that such an exercise will be done in their neighbourhood shortly.

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