The Telegraph
Tuesday , January 15 , 2013
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Turnout bares dengue apathy

Over half the civic councillors skipped a workshop on mosquito-borne diseases on Monday, reflecting a widespread apathy among elected representatives in tackling ailments like dengue that killed as many as 11 people last year.

Civic officials said that of the 141 councillors, only around 60 attended the workshop that was held at Swabhumi in association with the Centre’s National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme and the state health department.

The aim was to make the councillors aware of what causes vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria and the steps required to prevent their outbreak. The turnout, however, proves that fighting the potentially fatal diseases was low on the list of priorities of most councillors.

“I am unaware why so many councillors stayed away from the workshop. It was an important workshop and more councillors should have attended it,” said Atin Ghosh, the mayor-in-council, health, of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

Of the 100 Trinamul councillors, only around 45 had turned up for the meet. And of the 30 Left councillors, “close to 15” had come. “More councillors from all parties should have come,” said Rupa Bagchi of the CPM, the Opposition leader in the civic house.

Most seats at the venue — an auditorium at Swabhumi — were filled up by health department officials. “The officials have a role in preventing outbreaks of vector-borne diseases.... But each councillor is the face of his/her ward. If the councillors are aware of what needs to be done, it becomes easier for the officials to take the necessary steps. That’s why it was so important for the elected representatives to attend the workshop,” said a senior civic official.

Sources in the CMC’s health department said they had issued invitations to all councillors a month back. Last week, the civic control room had called to remind them of the workshop.

The timing of the workshop was significant as the vector-control drive should start soon after winter. “There are occasional showers during winter and before the onset of the monsoon. The water from such brief spells of rain should not be allowed to accumulate,” said a scientist at the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

The chief minister had rapped the civic body last year for its late response to the dengue outbreak. “CMC-r ekta negligence to hoyechhe. Vector drive February-March theke shuru kortey hobey, April-May tey giye korley hobey na,” Mamata Banerjee had said in September.

Mayoral council member Ghosh said such workshops would be held in each ward from February.

The health department website states 6,456 people had suffered from dengue last year till December 27. There were 3,361 cases in Calcutta. All 11 dengue deaths last year were reported from the city.