Lack of preventive care and delay in inspections are the reasons why Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) failed to control dengue in the city that claimed four lives this monsoon, alleged families of the victims.
Dengue is on a decline in the city now and relatives of patients, who were either diagnosed positive or succumbed to the disease, said that the areas where the disease was reported from were only inspected after a death.
The insecticide department of the BMC, on the other hand, claimed to have raised over Rs 25lakh, by penalising societies which housed dengue breeding grounds but families across the city said that the effort was not directed where necessary.
35-year-old Jeetendra Lodha lost his wife Neelam to dengue on September 12 after she had battled the disease for a week in Kokilaben Dhirubhai Hospital. Lodha said that only a week before she was diagnosed, they had informed the authorities about possible breeding grounds in the vicinity. While minor fumigation activities were carried out, no inspection was undertaken by the BMC employees.
“After my wife’s death, the BMC guys came and located two breeding grounds in our vicinity. We accept that there was a mistake on the part of the residents but at the same time, had proper inspection been carried out earlier, the damage could have been prevented,” said Lodha. Ever since the death of his wife, he has been spreading awareness about the breeding grounds single handedly in his vicinity.
Vidya Subramanian, resident of Bangur Nagar, Goregoan, said that fumigation and inspections only took place in her building after the death of her father, NR Subramanian, on September 23. “Three or four years ago, we had the BMC staff locating breeding grounds in our society and showing it all to us. Ever since, no such activity has been carried out.This year, there was no fumigation in our society, it only took place a day or two after my father’s death,” said Vidya.
An official from BMC, on the condition of anonymity, said that they did not have enough employees to carry out inspections or fumigation activities in every corner of the city.
“It’s true that the inspections should be carried out in areas that have reported dengue cases. The trend shows that the deaths have taken place where one or more positive cases were reported earlier. But we don’t have the manpower to inspect about 100-150 buildings in a month for that kind of activity,” said the official.
However, activists called the explanation a lame excuse to evade their failures. Sheroz Khan, a resident of Seven Bungalows, Andheri, said that it’s not difficult for the BMC to carry out inspections when the cases are tested positive, considering their ability to employ contractors for other cleanliness campaigns. “BMC has revived their Clean Mumbai campaign, where we see at least five to six contract employees penalising individuals for littering a spot. Similar employees can be pushed into such inspection activities,” said Sheroz, who was tested positive for dengue a week ago and was recently discharged from a hospital in Andheri.
An expert in the city said that there is a possibility that the numbers of patients might have been downplayed. “The officials have been complaining about the lack of staff to keep a tab on the vicinities from where positive cases are reported. But at the same time, we have about 100 positive cases in a month,” he said.
Rajan Naringrekar, head of the insecticide department could not be reached despite several attempts.