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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Two months, three deaths later, no action taken to improve conditions

Jatinder Kohli, Hindustan Times  Jalandar, November 10, 2013
First Published: 20:15 IST(10/11/2013) | Last Updated: 21:38 IST(10/11/2013)

Two months after three people died and more than 500 fell ill due to cholera in the Garha locality, the district administration has failed to take any action.

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Moreover, the three inquiries, of which two were ordered by two deputy commissioners and the third by the municipal corporation, appear to have been an eyewash, as the authorities are yet to fix the responsibility for the outbreak of the disease.

In the second week of September this year, people in the locality had fallen prey to cholera after drinking water reportedly got mixed with sewage due to multiple faults in the system and illegal water supply connections.

First inquiry
However, the first inquiry by the municipal corporation had reportedly given a clean chit to its officials, who had failed to take note of the illegal water connections.

Second inquiry
After the preliminary report was submitted by the MC, the-then deputy commissioner Shruti Singh, dissatisfied with the report, had ordered a fresh inquiry into the episode and constituted a three-member committee comprising SDM-1 Iqbal Singh Sandhu, Punjab Pollution Control Board executive engineer (XEN), and public health XEN.

Blaming plot owners for the outbreak, the report said migrant labourers working in the scrap dealing business in Garha were living on certain plots in unsanitary conditions. Their quarters were unhygienic, and more than 50 people were sharing one toilet and bathroom, which adjoined the kitchens. Besides, the owners were providing them with illegal water connections.

The report suggested that a case should be registered against the owners under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.

The commitee members also suggested measures to prevent a similar situation in the future, including conducting a survey to gather the latest information about illegal water supply connections in the city, replacing PVC water supply pipes and ensuring a year-round chlorination process. The report also said that a five-member committee, including two women, should be formed at community-level, and the members be given training about the chlorination process.

Third inquiry
In second week of October, present DC Varun Roojam had ordered a fresh probe into the incident, after the first inquiry failed to nail anyone.

HT Survey
An HT survey in Garha, Basti Sheikh, Basti Bawa Khel, Qazi Mandi and Basti Danishmandan localities, among several others, revealed that over a thousand migrants are living in unsanitary connections.

In Garha, there was no change from the earlier situation, and migrants were still living on the plots earlier visited by the-then local bodies minister Chunni Lal Bhagat and senior functionaries of health department and the MC. These officials had promised action, but nothing has been done till date.

DC Varun Roojam said, “I have received a report from MC in which it stated that illegal water connections have been disconnected in Garha, and it has started forming sanitation committees ward-wise.”

“I have asked the MC to give certificates regarding the disconnection,” the DC claimed, adding that he had also asked the MC to form a policy limiting the number of people living on a plot, to control the problem of overcrowding.

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