There seems no end to the woes of residents of Gandhi Camp locality here since gastroenteritis broke out, as the toll of deaths reached 42 on Monday.
Though the administration claims 42 people have died till now, the information gathered by this correspondent after visiting the locality on Monday puts the figure at 46.
The deaths that started haunting the locality on September 29 continue to create panic.
The administration says of the 42 deaths till now, 25 have died of gastro, whereas others have died of alcoholism and other health problems.
As many as 21 people have died in the past five days.
HT had highlighted the plight of Gandhi Camp and the conditions in which people were living there. The water being supplied to the locality is contaminated and filth is strewn all around. Locals said they were living in a virtual hell as the civic authorities had ignored the area for years.
With tears in his eyes, Sukhwinder Kumar, who lost his cousin Gopal Chand, said that earlier Gopal's elder brother Sohan Lal had died of gastro, and on Sunday night Gopal died within hours of vomiting a few times.
"The administration is going door to door for surveys, uprooting hand pumps and stopping the water supply of municipal taps. This is useless until they control the death toll, which is getting out of hand with each passing day," said Babbu, who lost his nephew Kala on Monday morning.
The families of Jatinder and Neeta also claimed that the two had died of gastro.
Gurdaspur deputy commissioner Abhinav Trikha, who reached the spot along with Batala SSP Tulsi Ram, had to face people's wrath as the locals were upset over the pathetic conditions at Gandhi Camp.
Local Congress MLA Ashwani Sekhri dared the deputy commissioner and the local bodies chief engineer to drink the water that the administration was providing to the locals.
People alleged that there was a nexus between the police and the drug mafia, which had resulted in the open sale of drugs in the locality for years.
Inderjeet, a local, said, "Illicit liquor and smack are commonly available here. One also has free access to narcotic drugs. Getting drugs here is as easy as buying bread."
Queue grows at dispensary
The queue at the dispensary set up outside Gandhi Camp continued to grow on Monday. Authorities at the dispensary said 104 patients had approached the dispensary on Monday. Of them 12 had gastro symptoms and two of them were referred to the civil hospital.
Gurdaspur deputy commissioner Abhinav Trikha told HT, "Till now 42 people have died. We cannot say all of them died of gastro. Our survey shows 25 people died of gastro while 17 of other reasons, including chronic alcoholism. Following a survey by doctors, a report has been prepared that shows that 17 of the 21 deaths in the past few days have been due to other reasons, including chronic alcoholism, infections, problem in pancreas, etc." Drug addiction had been also ascertained as one of the causes, he added.
"I have asked the Batala SSP to take immediate action. A team of doctors is doing a door-to-door survey in the locality to identify all patients suffering from any disease and provide them adequate treatment."
Private doctors/hospitals told to report
Since the number of deaths continues to grow and gastroenteritis is being seen as a major reason, the deputy commissioner also told all private doctors and hospitals of the city to give immediate report of any gastro patients to the Batala health authorities.
Cong threatens demonstration
Demanding immediate suspension of local bodies chief engineer Manmohan Singh Dhaliwal, MLA Ashwani Sekhri said as the local bodies department, which had assured people to provide them clean drinking water within three days, was not able to provide it even after three weeks, the administration should take action against the officer. He also threatened to hold a demonstration against the alleged apathetic attitude of the civil administration in case the spate of deaths was not controlled in the next 12 hours.