Not red rebels but mosquitoes have delivered a deadly strike on elite paramilitary forces deputed across poll bound Jharkhand with at least 13 jawans battling the virulent malaria in hospitals here while one jawan has died during the course of treatment.
Eight jawans were admitted to Jamshedpur’s MGMCH and five at RIMS, Ranchi since Sunday in critical condition.
At Jamshedpur the ailing arrived from the malaria endemic West Singhbhum district that saw polling on Tuesday. Three were from the state’s elite anti-naxal division Jharkhand Jaguar, two each from Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) and Jharkhand Police and one from Border Security Forces (BSF).
“Maoists are threat is belittled by mosquitoes. In the last three months more than twenty personnel were rushed to hospitals with malaria,” said ailing Sunil Kumar Gupta, an IRB constable posted at Timra picket.
West Singhbhum has 39.75% of its land covered by forest. Spread over 805 square kilometers, the Saranda forests in this district is one of the biggest rain-fed Sal forests in the country. These forests breed the female anopheles mosquitos that carry the virulent disease.
Requesting anonymity jawans said that they had not received anti-malarial pills or repellant.
“Our old mosquito nets are in tatters. Bites are threat not bullets in jungles,” said an ailing constable, adding that drinking water from rivers often spread dysentery and fever in camps sans filters.
“There is an acute dearth of medicines in camps,” said Budhi Ram Oraon, posted in Chaibasa.
Police officials, however, said that arrangements had been made to keep the disease at bay.
“Every personnel have been given mosquito nets and repellants, Cvil surgeons have been alerted to take on an emergency,” said police spokesperson Anurag Gupta.
More than 50 jawans posted in West Singhbhum, and 100 in Khunti and Ranchi have undergone malaria tests in the past one-week.
Director-in-chief health services, Dr Sumant Mishra, said, “District prone to malaria have been kept on alert.”
“Required health arrangements have been made for personnel posted in malaria endemic districts,” said state programme officer for malaria control Pushpa Maria Bake.
In neighbouring state of Chattisgarh’s Bastar disvions, six jawans from the CRPF died and 100 were hospitalized with malaria in the past one week.