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Festival, falciparum knock on doors

Calcutta, Sept. 28: Deck up for Ma but beware of the mosquito.

Even as the city wakes up to welcome Goddess Durga, a guest far less wanted is at the doorstep. Malaria — the disease that arrives a little later in the year — is here already, particularly in areas that are witnessing a construction boom.

More than 21,000 Calcuttans — mostly from areas like Tiljala, Kasba, Dhakuria, Regent Park, Behala and Thakurpukur — have made it to the list of malaria patients available with the health wing of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

Civic officials said there may be thousands more whose tryst with malaria has not been tracked down.

However, for the beleaguered administration, there is also a cause for cheer: the number of malignant malaria cases is a lot less this year, they said. The festival season should not, after all, see too many malaria deaths, they predicted.

The hope, said officials, is backed by figures. According to information available with the corporation’s health wing, only one person died of malaria this year. The death was reported from a private hospital in Dhakuria.

“Only 796 cases of malignant malaria have been reported this year,” said corporation’s health officer on special duty Atanu Mukherjee. “This is less than half the malignant malaria cases reported last year when the figure stood at 1,880.”

Officials said the prime source of the disease this year is the stagnant water at sites where buildings are coming up. There are ways the corporation can penalise errant developers but the penalty, officials admitted, was too little to act as a deterrent. “Nothing of much benefit will come out of the present system. The fines vary from Rs 500 to Rs 2000,” said Mukherjee.

“Which promoter of a multi-crore complex will start acting if he is made to pay only Rs 2,000'” a civic official asked.

According to procedure, health workers visit places in their area they suspect to be breeding grounds for mosquitoes. If they find evidence that someone is adding to the malaria menace, they report him/her to the relevant borough office.

Till last month, officials said, the corporation detected 25 cases of water accumulating in under-construction buildings. After probe, it was decided that five of them would be penalised, said civic officials.

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