Dengue and Chikungunya: Dear politicians, who turned Delhi's health so bad?

Finally, people who matter in Delhi have decided to give the politics of cynicism a break and work together to fight chikungunya and dengue, which have assumed epidemic proportions by now. It took ten chikungunya deaths and countless patients with other vector-borne diseases to make them see sense, and the lack of it in the endless political bickering when citizens are suffering. It comes a bit late in the day, but like they say, it’s better late than never.

That Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Minister for Tourism and Water Kapil Mishra have appealed all to bury differences and rise above political considerations underlines the fact that it was indeed politics that stopped those in charge of the delivery mechanism in the city-state from addressing the problem of diseases on a war footing for so long. “Historically, in an emergency people have come together and fought together. That’s what is required now,” said Jung in a statement, while Mishra in a series of tweets under the hashtag #OneDelhi struck a conciliatory note.

“Come, let us fight the mosquitoes and illness as one. Let’s break down the wall the wall between Delhi government, MCD, LG office and central government,” said one of his tweets while another said “Come, let’s fight the illness and mosquitoes together. We seven MPs, 70 MLAs and 272 councillors can do this work.” It was heartening to note Union Health Minister JP Nadda extending all support to the state government. When BJP MP Manoj Tiwari and minister Kapil Mishra took a bicycle ride to Sonia Vihar to join a fumigation drive, it seemed Delhi’s squabbling politicians have matured overnight.

With all elected representatives at work, things can only look better henceforth. Now, why cannot this be a permanent feature in Delhi? Well, the competition for political space is too fierce here. That makes healthy, cooperative politics is too much of an expectation. But at least it can be less cynical than it is now. Till a couple of days ago Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Health minister Satyendar Jain were blaming the Lieutenant Governor for the health mess while the BJP, which controls the MCDs, had been accusing the state government for lapses in preparing for the seasonal disease outbreak.

(L to R) Arvind Kejriwal, Najeeb Jung and Kapil Mishra

(L to R) Arvind Kejriwal, Najeeb Jung and Kapil Mishra

There can be no second opinion that the arrangement of responsibility and accountability in the city-state remains odd. For state government that does not enjoy full powers of a regular state, it calls for immense public relation skills and skills at intelligent negotiations to keep going. With its combative, which some would say anarchic, approach to existing political equations the AAP government has proven short on both counts. While its demand for more powers to run the state is not at all unreasonable – how can a government deliver when it has no control over the police, land and many services? - the way it has gone about it has left it exposed to criticism. The others in the political spectrum have not conducted themselves with responsibility either.

It shows in the suffering that the poor residents of Delhi are exposed to. They have to take the brunt of pollution, diseases, criminals, poor civic infrastructure and what not on a routine basis. The spread of the diseases this time reflects that the caretakers of the city are not even prepared for what is expected. The ordinary citizen has to pay the price for games politicians play.

While we can laud the politicians for showing some maturity and coming together, we must also ask them the question: who is responsible for things coming to this pass? Almost every family in the city has a chikungunya or dengue patient. Who’s responsible for that? Serving people certainly cannot be a matter of political convenience.

Updated Date: Sep 15, 2016 11:55 AM

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