Dengue, chikungunya fears haunt Delhi again, as breeding checkers go on strike

One day after the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) sanitation workers called off their 11-day agitation and agreed to clear garbage, another group of health workers in the capital, the domestic breeding checkers (DBC) has announced an indefinite strike demanding regularisation of their posts.

DBCs are workers engaged by the municipal corporations of Delhi to prevent vector-borne diseases. Considering the city is just recovering from a major outbreak of dengue and chikungunya, the DBC strike could pose significant health hazards.

"There are a number of domestic breeding checkers who've been working at Delhi's municipal corporations for the last 20 years. But they don't even get a decent salary," said Madan Pal, who's leading the agitation.

 Dengue, chikungunya fears haunt Delhi again, as breeding checkers go on strike

Domestic breeding checkers on strike in Delhi. Image courtesy: Firstpost/Kangkan Acharya

Another leader Ashwini Yadav told Firstpost, "Our main job is to check if dengue, chikanguniya and malaria carrying mosquitoes are breeding in city households. If found, we destroy their breeding grounds immediately."

A press release issued by the agitators read that on 23 September last year, the MCDs sought three months' time to work on demands laid by the DBCs, but they are yet to be met. The agitators demonstrated in front of the civic centre on Monday and announced that an indefinite hunger strike will begin from Tuesday.

Yadav said the DBCs' task is arduous. They go from door to door, checking for stagnant water and mosquito larvae. "A checker visits 1,000-1,500 homes every month and sprays insecticide wherever and whenever needed," Yadav said.

He mentioned that there are at least 3,200 DBCs hired in the last 20 years by the municipal corporations in the capital "But since we aren't regular employees, we are only paid a meagre Rs 12,000 as monthly salary. It's not sufficient to meet the expenses of our families," he said.

Pal said even this meagre salary isn't regular. "Many of us haven't received any salary for the last two-three months," he rued.

For the money they are paid, the DBCs have to keep a record of all the houses they have visited, and take the signature of the house owner acknowledging the visit. To go about their work, they may use an insecticide-spraying machine and a dipper. The dipper is used to check if stagnant water is breeding mosquitos and insecticides are used in all corners of the house," Yadav added.

"We visit people's houses and check for stagnant water. If we find some, and discover it containing mosquito larvae, we ask the owner to throw it away. We then spray chemicals to prevent further breeding of mosquitoes," Yadav said.

If a DBC finds errant water management, he may also slap a fine of upto Rs 500 on the house owner. This apart, they are also expected to carry out fogging operations regularly.

However, many DBCs claim the municipal corporations don't provide them with dippers, which may mean they have to purchase it themselves. Pal said that providing all checkers with a necessary kit is among the demands they have placed before the Delhi civic body.

The city is recovering from a massive outbreak of vector-borne diseases like dengue and chikungnya, that claimed over 10 lives last year. Frequent strikes by health workers is another challenge to the MCDs, which are fighting tooth and nail to contain the menace.

Updated Date: Jan 17, 2017 11:33:52 IST