ON A late October evening as we moved from Link Road No. 1 to Nishat Enclave located in the shadow of the Arera Hills, a fumigator came in from the opposite end letting off thick white clouds of some chemical. Obviously, it was in the process of driving away the vectors of dengue and chikungunia, the two lethal diseases that have been afflicting not only this town, but other towns and villages in the State, in fact, most parts of the country.
The fumigator promptly raised two issues in my mind. Firstly, it was quite apparent that the public health authorities had woken up very late to the post-monsoon menace. With the drop in ambient temperature at the end of October, the mosquitoes stop breeding and the incidence of the diseases spread by them come down. What should have been a necessary measure during and soon after the monsoon was being taken only after hundreds of citizens had been stricken – many fatally – by the two diseases.
Sufferings of many could have been avoided had the public health authorities taken timely action anticipating the onslaught of the mosquitoes. It is not that the diseases have made an appearance only this year. But, the experiences gained in the preceding years are hardly ever taken as lessons.
Secondly, fumigation in 74 Bungalows or other such well-kept areas is a superfluity. One wonders whether any one from such areas ever fell victim of dengue or chikungunia. More worthwhile would be fumigating overcrowded localities, which are subjects of utter civic neglect – where drains are clogged, sewers overflow and rubbish collects in piles.
But the treatment given to VIP areas is always different – be it removal of encroachments or providing civic facilities. That, however, is another story.
The ongoing steps are neither prophylactic nor ameliorative, though time, public money and effort are being expended in copious quantities. It is thoroughly stupid to be “wise after the event”, particularly when the entire mechanism – with men and material – for forestalling such contingencies has been placed in the hands of the authorities concerned at great cost to the public exchequer.
Yet nothing is ever done on time. The entire “system” is in place, but it always happens to be dysfunctional. Imprudent as it may seem, the government spends a fortune on emergency healthcare in its facilities even when it has adequately armed itself to prevent the spread of the same diseases.
Whether it is adulterated food dished out from outlets, stationary or mobile, supply of contaminated water or lack of sanitation, all can be taken care of if only the elaborate “system” put in place was made to function. But that seldom happens.
Quite avoidably, therefore, miseries and privations are inflicted on the citizens – generally of the economically weaker sections – by the very same authorities to whom they have entrusted the responsibility of their care and well-being. Not only their health is adversely impacted, the whole sequence of events impoverishes them, impairing their (and the state’s) productivity.
Health of the people, more so of the capital, is indicative of the health of the state. If people in the capital are repeatedly felled by various diseases because of apathy and negligence of the administration one can quite imagine the plight of those in its hinterland. The Chief Minister has aspirations of shedding the state’s backward tag and to transform the capital into a Global Environment City.
Wishes not being horses, he will have to chase his top-heavy bureaucracy to work to ensure that his aspirations materialise. Making them shed their lassitude, he will have to force them to ‘dirty’ their hands in the business of administration, holding them and their underlings accountable for their non-performance.
Unless that is done, the State will continue to plough its BIMARU furrow.