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Rats eat into malaria net

As Assam finds no respite from the chills and shivers of malaria despite money being pumped into eradication efforts, the CAG smells a rat.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2006 01:46 IST

As Assam finds no respite from the chills and shivers of malaria despite money being pumped into eradication efforts, the CAG smells a rat.

A report by the comptroller and auditor general has pulled up the Assam government for dumping mosquito nets, which would have kept the stinger and the disease at bay, in godowns. Five years later, when the doors were opened, they have been shredded to strings by rats.

The report says the state health and family welfare department wasted Rs 7.19 crore. The story goes back to 2000 when the Centre allotted 5.20 lakh mosquito nets to Assam to check the malaria menace under the Malaria Eradication Programme. The joint director (malaria) of the state's health services prompty took possession of these nets between February 9 and April 7 of that year.

Things seemed to be on a trot as the health department distributed 4,86,133 nets to 22 districts from April 7 to 11 the following year, retaining the rest at its headquarters in Guwahati.

However, instead of distributing the nets, these were kept under lock and key in the health department stores and godowns of the State Warehouse Corporation — till February 2005. This did not come cheap. The state had to cough up a monthly rent of Rs 82,500 since February 2001.

Wouldn't it have been better, easier and cost-effective to just distribute the nets to people? Especially when the disease has been taking in its toll, killing 200 people a year. But then Delhi had asked the department not to do so "until further instructions" came.

The state kept paying rent for nets left unrecognisable by insects and rodents in the dust-laden store houses.

The CAG gives out the numbers. "At Rs 130 per mosquito net, the total loss comes to Rs 6.76 crore," said the CAG report, adding that the Assam health department wasted an additional Rs 43.16 lakh on rent. Now, that is what you call net loss.