As chief minister Arvind Kejriwal campaigns in Punjab, seeking to expand his party’s footprint beyond Delhi, people in his own state are locked in a losing battle with chikungunya and dengue, both of which have assumed epidemic proportions. Newspapers inform that so far 1,158 cases of dengue, with four deaths, have been reported by the civic bodies. There have been 1,057 reported cases of chikungunya with three deaths so far.
They also mention that there’s massive under-reporting of cases. The actual number of affected people is much more since good number of patients don’t visit government hospitals and take help of private practitioners close to their places of residence. But these are not the only diseases troubling the residents of Delhi. They are under threat from malaria and a few viral and bacterial diseases too. Hospitals overflowing with patients tell the true story: The outbreak has gone out of control.
While mosquitoes and other carriers of pathogens are having a field day in the capital-state, conspicuous is the absence of political leaders trying to take control of the situation. Dirt, filth and overflowing sewage, the breeding ground for diseases, continue to be a fact of life here even as those representing the people look the other way. Arvind Kejriwal, the supposed people’s chief minister, is thick in the electoral campaign in Punjab for some time now; Satyendra Jain, the Health minister, is reportedly in Goa doing groundwork for his party’s launch in the state. If those present in Delhi are working hard, it does not quite show in the results.
Last year, Kejriwal had made surprise visits to several hospitals after dengue outbreak claimed the life of two boys and warned them not to turn away patients besides promising to increase the number of beds in hospitals. The enthusiasm to reach out is not visible this time. Ever since the Delhi High Court ruled that the Lieutenant Governor is the administrative head of the state, the lack of enthusiasm in the Assembly to run the city-state's affairs has become apparent.
Soon after the court’s verdict came, the AAP had asked people to go the Lieutenant Governor with all their problems since he, by logical extension the central government, was the administrative head of the state. Now, the party put the blame squarely on the L-G and the Centre saying they should be held accountable for dengue, chikungunya deaths since the state government didn’t have powers to even buy a pen. The BJP, which controls the civic bodies, has hit back alleging that AAP has no interest in running the state.
The AAP government’s predicament is understandable. It neither controls the MCDs nor does it have an independent say in several critical areas of governance. The Delhi High Court’s order has left it handicapped further. The question, however, is shouldn’t crises like this be the perfect occasion for it to stand behind people? After all it claimed to be a party unlike others and the voice of the ordinary people left as hopeless bystanders in a democratic process that has turned perverse over the years. It has a moral responsibility for the masses who elected it with such thumping majority. It appears to be abandoning it.
Of course, no other political party comes out looking better in the Delhi’s messy politics, but AAP under Kejriwal carried the burden of many pleasant expectations. It does not have the power alright, but it still can be the people’s party, raising their concerns, playing the role of the opposition in a half-state where real power lies elsewhere.
Its inactivity in the times of chikungunya and dengue only reflects its growing distance from people.