Three more people died of chikungunya in Delhi on Tuesday, taking the number of deaths due to the painful viral disease to five.
Facing one of its worst outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases, the city appears to have been abandoned, with only one minister -- Kapil Mishra -- in town.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and ministers Gopal Rai and Imran Hussain are all away. Lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung is in the US and is expected in Delhi Wednesday.
By evening, health minister Satyendar Jain was back from Goa.
“4 Deaths due to Chikangunia reported from one pvt hospital (Ganga Ram). No death in any Delhi govt hospital. Enquiry ordered,” he tweeted. Jain also said “medically, chikungunya can never be a cause of anyone’s death”.
During the day, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said three men had died of chikungunya. A 22-year-old girl who died in MCD-run Hindu Rao Hospital on September 1, too, tested positive for the viral disease that causes fever, debilitating joint pain but rarely kills. Ganga Ram had reported a death on Monday as well.
The government said there was no reason to panic and blamed the Centre and Jung for the health crisis.
“CM n min left wid no power now, even to buy a pen. LG n PM enjoy all powers wrt Del. LG abroad. Question them for Del, (sic)” tweeted Kejriwal. He returned from Punjab on Monday night and left for Bengaluru in the morning.
Top health officials warn the situation is explosive.
“It is an explosive outbreak as the numbers are so high this year,” said Dr Neena Valecha, director, National Institute of Malaria Research. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a concrete plan to combat the situation, especially since we know prevention is the only way to check the spread of the disease.”
Delhi has reported 1,057 chikungunya and 1,158 dengue cases this season though the municipal corporations are accused of underreporting the cases that reflect their failure to control mosquito breeding.
Three of the city’s 45 government hospitals have reported more chikunguya cases than the civic bodies.
Jain, too, blamed the BJP-ruled civic bodies, which cancelled leaves of health department workers, and said north and south Delhi mayors were not in town.
“Two MCD (municipal corporation of Delhi) mayors are out of Delhi, ask them why? Their only work is to ensure cleanliness,” Jain said.
His ministerial colleague Mishra continued the blame game, accusing Jung of hatching criminal conspiracy against residents by sending “Delhi health secretary on a 15-day leave” before leaving for the US.
The BJP demanded Kejriwal’s resignation. “Sir, if you don’t have the capacity to buy a pen, as you are suggesting, why don’t you resign?” party spokesperson Sambit Patra said, reacting to the CM’s tweet.
Former chief minister and Congress leader Sheila Dikshit said it was the government’s responsibility to take preemptive steps “when this season arrives before people get sick”.