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Setback for fight against dengue

CBI catches MCD official accepting Rs 2,000 as bribe.

india Updated: Oct 18, 2006 16:16 IST

A key official overseeing civic authorities’ drive to arrest a spreading dengue in the city was arrested late on Friday on graft charges, leaving with almost nobody to steer the fight against the mosquito-borne disease that has claimed 21 people so far.

Singh was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from his Connaught Place office as he allegedly accepted Rs 2,000 from a junior in return for promoting him.

The arrest comes as a jolt to the anti-dengue campaigns being run in the city by civic authorities.

Singh heads the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD)’s anti-malaria department and, more importantly, is the second highest-ranking official overseeing anti-dengue operations after municipal health officer Dr NK Yadav.

But with Dr Yadav mostly busy in meetings with health ministry officials, it was Dr Singh who completely oversaw the civic body’s anti-malaria and anti-dengue campaigns, briefing and debriefing health workers who have fanned out in the city on a daily basis, said an MCD official who did not wish to be named.

Singh was produced in a local court on Saturday, which sent him to judicial custody for 14 days. "An MCD employee posted with the anti-malaria department complained the doctor wanted a bribe to recommend his promotion. Dr Singh was arrested from his office at G Block, Connaught Place, as he accepted the money from the employee," said a CBI spokesman.

A CBI team later searched the doctor's residence. "We are looking at the documents seized from his home," said the spokesman. The CBI also suspects Dr Singh of having been in the habit of taking money from juniors to forward their names for promotion.

The arrest could not have come at a worse time as the city battles a spreading dengue, with 21 deaths and the highest number of infections, which are close to 800.

Dr Yadav declined comment on Singh’s arrest as he had no official information about it.

MCD Leader of House Jitender Kochar described the arrest as shameful. “It is shameful that even during a crisis, MCD officials were trying to earn money on the sly. We will not tolerate corruption or laxity on the part of our officials where public health is at stake,” he said.

Singh’s arrest comes a day after the MCD terminated the services of 12 contractors, who had been found wanting in their duty.

Contractors in each municipal zone have been assigned certain responsibilities under the dengue-control programme. “The contractors report to the malaria inspector, who in turn report to the anti-malaria officer (AMO) and they report to the zonal deputy health officer (DHO). All DHOs had been reporting to Dr Singh, who would collate all data and make an assessment of the day’s developments and decide further strategy,” said another MCD official.

“After the recent spurt in dengue cases, we had authorised zonal deputy commissioners to engage whatever equipment and labour they needed for the dengue-control programme without worrying about the money. But Dr Singh’s absence should not disturb the dengue-control programme. A senior office should soon replace him,” said Kochhar.

First Published: Oct 18, 2006 16:16 IST