Unhygienic cowsheds, backed by politicians, and lack of rat killers in the city has made controlling the spread of zoonotic diseases (transmissible between animals and humans) in the last two months a difficult job for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). While earlier cases of leptospirosis were confined to certain areas, this time 86 such cases were reported across the city in June and July alone along with four deaths.
While in 2015, leptospirosis cases increased only during monsoon, this year has witnessed an upward trend in the cases throughout. In the period of January to May last year, public hospitals had one case of the infection. But, in the same duration in 2016, such cases touched 20 mark.
Also, two weeks of July last year had witnessed 16 deaths because of the infection.
The BMC officials claim that despite them wanting to take strict action against the disease-ridden cowsheds, the politicians are trying to save them to secure their vote bank for the upcoming civic elections. Although, 223 FIRs have been registered against such cowsheds for failing to maintain a sanitized and hygienic environment, but sources said that politicians unwilling to let go of their votes are blocking action.
“During a discussion with the local political representatives, one of them assured to take action but only post BMC elections in 2017,” said a senior BMC official from the public health department.
Few rat killers
When it comes to the increasing rat population in the city, the civic officials have found no success either. Hiring rat-killers has been a tough task for them as even after increasing compensation for per rat killed from Rs 10 to Rs 18, response from contractors for the job is insufficient.
Despite rats being the largest carriers of the disease, the BMC’s previous tender to employ contractors didn’t attract a single application in 12 wards and just one each in five, said Rajan Naringekar, BMC insecticide officer. “We have increased the rates as per wage policy and we are providing vehicles for transportation of rats to the ward offices. Also, fresh tenders have been floated out and they will remain open till August 12,” said Naringekar.
Whole city hit
The civic officials claim that while earlier leptospirosis cases were reported at certain areas, now are coming up across the city. “Earlier the cases of zoonotic diseases including dengue, malaria or leptospirosis used to come from large land parcels with abandoned buildings or areas BMC officials had no access to. But now the cases are coming from across the city,” said Dr Mini Khetarpal, from Epidemiology Cell of BMC.