Chikungunya, dengue in Delhi: Failure of govt agencies, health officials and civic apathy are responsible

Kejriwal is not the only one to be blamed for failing Delhi. It is a pointer to the apathy and failure of its people.

Sandipan Sharma September 14, 2016 14:27:37 IST
Chikungunya, dengue in Delhi: Failure of govt agencies, health officials and civic apathy are responsible

If dengue and chikungunya are killing people in Delhi, there is only one person responsible for it: you.

It is perfectly legitimate to howl that Arvind Kejriwal and his team are busy electioneering, recuperating or vacationing while Delhi burns with viral fevers spread by mosquitoes. Even if Kejriwal has limited powers to run Delhi — and this is actually true since the court ruled L-G Najeeb Jung, who, incidentally, is also out of station, is the administrative head — it is the CM's responsibility to ensure that people who voted for him do not suffer because of administrative lapses and inefficiencies.

By abdicating responsibility and saying he is helpless, Kejriwal has once again proved that he is a bhagora — somebody who is prone to run away and then find convenient excuses to justify his flight. If nothing else, Kejriwal and his team should have been out in the streets of Delhi, arranging medical facilities, checking hospitals and coordinating measures to check the spread of these diseases. Instead of fighting the elections in Punjab, Kejriwal's AAP should have been fighting for the people of Delhi.

Chikungunya dengue in Delhi Failure of govt agencies health officials and civic apathy are responsible

Representational image. PTI

But, Kejriwal is not the only one to be blamed for failing Delhi. The ongoing viral epidemic in Delhi is in fact a damning indictment of the failure of civic agencies, health officials and the so-called Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched with a lot of fanfare by the Central government two years ago. And above all, it is a pointer to the apathy and failure of its people.

Chikungunya and dengue become endemic in areas that provide breeding sites to mosquitoes. Competent governments and smart cities — another popular Indian jumla — preempt these diseases by acting in advance against carriers of these diseases before they wreak havoc.

Singapore, for instance, has a well-defined law for dealing with dengue and its carrier, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which thrives in the city-state's hot, humid climate.

Singapore's Control of Vectors and Pesticides Act prohibits anyone from creating a condition favourable to the propagation of vectors. It also prohibits anyone from breeding, keeping, importing and exporting vectors without permission. It gives public health officers the powers to enter and inspect premises, vessels or aircrafts, to serve an order on owner/occupier of premises to take measures within a stipulated time by carrying out fogging or spraying at their own expense. Those who fail to take measures to stop breeding of mosquitoes are fined, repeat offenders are even sent to jail. During emergencies, the civic administration takes measures to kill vectors and sanitise breeding sites. But even for this the charges are slapped on people responsible for breeding vectors.

Notice that the ultimate responsibility of keeping Singapore free of vectors is that of its citizens, who not only bear the costs but also run the risk of going to jail for not complying.

Compare this with India, where construction sites and homes breed mosquitoes without impunity or responsibility. As this report in the Hindustan Times points out, between 1-2 lakh Delhi households, including the Rashtrapati Bhavan, breed mosquitoes in their backyards.

"A report prepared jointly by South Delhi Municipal Corporation, East Delhi Municipal Corporation and North Delhi Municipal Corporation said that the domestic breeding checkers visited 15 lakh houses between 1 January and 10 September 10 this year and every 15th house was found to have water stagnated in Feng Shui plants, petri dishes, vessels under planters, defrost trays of refrigerators, coolers and overhead tanks where mosquitoes were breeding," according to Hindustan Times.

Another report in The Indian Express points out how construction sites have become epicentres of vector-borne diseases in the city, leading to dengue, chikungunya and malaria in at least 20 percent of the workforce.

How many of the owners have been fined? How many have been sent to jail for repeated violations?

Obviously, a lax administration and apathetic people are harvesting their own season of illness. And, to make matters worse, they do not allow civic agencies to survey their homes or inspect breeding grounds.

India has been a gigantic failure when it comes to dealing with mosquitoes. Several smaller countries with limited resources have succeeded in limiting the impact of mosquitoes on public health. Countries such as Singapore and Sri Lanka, both having hot, humid climates, have completely eradicated malaria. But, in spite of spending crores of rupees on malaria indication programmes, in six decades, India has not been able to deal with the disease.

As Nana Patekar famously said, one mosquito has become a symbol of our collective incompetence, if not impotence.

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