“How can I check for mosquito breeding, if residents don’t allow me into their houses,” ask the corporations’ domestic breeding checkers (DBC).
Inder Singh (41), a breeding checker, stands outside a bungalow in L-Block of south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar. Despite repeated requests and, later, threats to allow him to check the house, he is turned away.
The bungalows’ caretaker throws myriad excuses at him.
“In over 60% of the houses we visit, people don’t let us in. We are turned away as if we are salesmen,” says Singh.
He is a part of the 10-member DBC team that HT followed on Monday and Tuesday. They have to check 29,000 houses in Lajpat Nagar’s ward 155.
On the first day, only five out of 40 houses allowed the inspectors in. On the second day, though the residents allowed the inspectors to fog their place, they turned hostile when officials started looking around for mosquito breeding.
In all, 102 households were inspected. Challans were issued to the five that had mosquito larva breeding. Empty containers, air conditioning vents, refrigerator trays and Feng Shui plants were the most common breeding spots.
In every case, residents blamed the authorities for carelessness and even sabotage.
A pregnant woman with two children screamed at the workers for “planting” the mosquito larva in her house “to get money from her”. The DBCs found over a dozen larvae in a bucket in her bathroom. They challaned her and the fine amount was to be decided by a magistrate.
A challan for a maximum fine of `500 is issued to defaulters, which is forwarded to the local magistrate. The fine has remained the same since the Delhi Municipal Act was formed in 1970. MCD officials say they have been trying to get it increased to `2,000 since 2010.
Breeding checkers say women don’t allow them to enter, fearing for their own safety. It is difficult to argue with them, says a checker. “I do not want to go to check for breeding and instead get charged with a criminal offence,” says Singh.
He says residents also beat up breeding checkers for challaning them. “They threaten us and often name political connections. If mosquitoes breed and cause dengue or chikungunya, then these very people will blame us for not doing our job,” he said.
In some gated communities in Dwarka, inspectors are not allowed to enter because they don’t have permission.
The corporations issued identity cards for field workers. But that hasn’t helped either. “Most of the private colonies here (in Dwarka) have a restricted entry for visitors. Even when our staff goes for inspection, they are stopped saying that the resident welfare associations (RWA) need to give permission. Even when they show them their ID cards they are not allowed,” said a health inspector in the area.
In Singapore, inspection teams have the power to break into a house, if locked or inaccessible, during peak season to check breeding. “Here inspectors are not even allowed to check a house without the owners’ permission. It amounts to trespassing,” said north corporation hospital administration director, Dr DK Seth.
The city requires at least 15,000 DBCs to inspect the houses every week. The current strength, however, is 3,500.