The Telegraph
Wednesday , April 23 , 2014
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Mercury & mosquito mayhem unleashed
Sorry, no money for vector control

Funds crunch and lack of resources are taking the sting out of Ranchi’s fight against vector-borne diseases.

The rising mercury, coupled with erratic power supply and unclean neighbourhoods harbouring stagnant sewage water, has made the ambience conducive to breeding of mosquitoes, but the district nodal agency for vector control claims it is being forced to sit idle.

Two cases of dengue have already been reported from the state-run Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) this month, which has been the driest in seven years.

On April 15, a Jharkhand Armed Police jawan was admitted to the hospital with high fever. A day later, he tested positive for dengue. While he was treated and discharged from RIMS on Monday evening, a Bariatu homemaker was admitted with similar symptoms. However, district malaria control officer Anil Kumar Jung Bahadur said the second case of dengue was yet to be confirmed.

Asked how prepared they were to tackle a dengue outbreak, he drew a blank. “Honestly, we don’t have a single penny to undertake precautionary measures. Funds haven’t come from the Centre so far,” he said.

If sources are to be believed, the district received Rs 1 lakh from the Union government for vector control programmes and the entire sum was handed over to RIMS.

“But, the utilisation certificate of RIMS is yet to get an NOC from the state because of which funds are stuck,” Kumar said, adding that the delay was routine. Last year too, the funds were received two months after the financial year began. “Koi time nai hai paisa aane ka. (There isn’t any fixed time for funds arrival).”

As a nodal agency, the vector control office must undertake timely sensitisation campaigns, identify threat areas, initiate anti-malarial drives, collect regular blood samples and co-ordinate with civic bodies. But, it isn’t doing any of these because it has no financial backing.

A senior vector control official squarely blamed the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) for the impending scourge. “Walk past any capital neighbourhood, barring VIP areas, and you will see mounds of garbage and clogged drains. Seldom does the RMC clean these places. Fogging is rarer. The civic officials must be taken to task for the mess. The RMC has also failed to rein in rogue realtors. Rampant constructions are contributing to the vector menace because builders often don’t cover the holes they dig,” he said.

Technically, he had a point. But, has his office ever tried to co-ordinate with the RMC? “No one listens to us,” he added.

Kumar claimed that “the day after tomorrow”, they were planning to hold a sensitisation programme in the city and at schools. The itinerary, however, hasn’t been chalked out yet.

“Among the half a dozen medical inspectors under me, three have retired. Another in Khunti is soon to retire. We have a fogging machine, but no kerosene. We don’t have means to spray larvicides either. We have been asking the district supply officer to arm us with what we need, but he is citing polls to delay matters,” he listed the obstacles.

So, Ranchi, if tomorrow comes, you may hope for a sting operation.