The infrastructure required to tackle malaria in the city has collapsed, as the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) health department has virtually no stock of chemicals and machines to combat the disease.
“Mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s politics has left Calcuttans at the mercy of the disease,” said CPM MLA and councillor Sudhanshu Sil. He added that no action had been taken by the civic health department to kill adult mosquitoes, “even though this is the right time to do so”.
According to Sil, the civic vector control unit is non-functional, as more than 70 of the 80 swing-fog machines are not in working condition for about two years. Besides, the anti-mosquito chemical, Pyrethrum, is now out of stock.
An officer of the vector control unit said the department had asked for Rs 1.13 lakh to get the machines repaired but “the mayor sanctioned only Rs 29,000”. Sources said only about 50 kg of Pyrethrum, of the asking 500 kg, remains in the city stores, since no replenishment of stocks had taken place in the past 10 months.
When queried on the poor performance of his department, Javed Ahmed Khan, member, mayor-in-council (health), said: “How do you expect me to answer this, if I am not allowed to work and take decisions' Last year, the disease was effectively controlled as I was given a free hand to allot funds.”
An investigation into the actual figures of malarial deaths, kept in the crematoriums and burial grounds, by a city-based NGO, reveals a toll of at least 100 between August and December 2002 in and around the city.
Atanu Mukherjee, officer on special duty, health, pointed out that according to a government report, the toll due to malaria till November had been 20, against last year’s figure of 42.