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Drive flops in polio reservoir

Jangipur (Murshidabad), Sept. 29: The Centre-sponsored “special round” of the pulse polio programme launched in select districts of West Bengal today failed to evoke the desired response in this sub-division, the state’s polio ‘reservoir’.

The number of polio cases in the district has shot up to 21 with four more cases reported over the past few days. The patients are concentrated in four police station areas of Jangipur subdivision, namely Samsergunj (9 cases), Suti (9 cases), Farakka (2 cases) and Raghunathgunj (1 case).

All 21 afflicted children belong to the minority community. Observers blamed the lukewarm response to today’s programme on the authorities’ apathy, lack of awareness campaign and superstition among the minority community.

Sabhadhipati Sachchidananda Kandari inaugurated the three-day programme at the Mohammadpur primary school in Jangipur municipality this morning.

“There are 21 polio cases in Murshidabad out of a total of 22 in Bengal,” said chief medical officer of health Bijan Kumar Mandal. Muraroi in adjoining Birbhum has the remaining case. Last year, there was only one case in the state.

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra had last month met imams of mosques, members of local clubs, panchayats, NGOs and teachers to involve them in the drive to ensure better penetration. But little work seems to have been done since as several parents stayed away from the programme.

Nasima Bibi, who stays about 10 metres from the Mohammadpur primary school, said: “I have not given the polio dose to my 3-year-old child because my husband is against the idea.” She believes her child’s legs will become defective if the polio dose is administered.

The authorities’ indifference towards the scheme’s success was clear as Maulana Abdul Hai, imam of the Islampur Jumma mosque, and Mortuz Ali, a teacher from Islampur, were not contacted or asked to participate in the drive. Imam Lal Mohammad, whose word carries weight in Nutanjaladipur village, was left out, too.

A shocking example of the government’s failure to spread awareness was found at the Centre-funded Nimtita Chest Centre in Suti. Rafiqul Alam, a physician at the hospital, did not administer the polio vaccination to his child, influencing the decision of many in the area.

But Ward 11 of Dhulian municipality in the district bucked the trend, thanks to Maulana Obaidullah, imam of Tarbagan Jumma mosque, who took an active interest in the drive.

The drive met with some success in select pockets as several other imams like Maulana Giasuddin, Maulana Yunus Chowdhury and Maulana Sahabuddin distributed handbills in favour of the programme and campaigned for the programme last Friday.

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