Vector control charade in Hindpiri

RMC, health department accused of ignoring signs of infections for two months

By RAJ KUMAR in Ranchi
  • Published 11.08.18

CLEANING SPREE: An RMC worker carries out fogging at the 3,000sqft godown for old tyres in Hindpiri, Ranchi, on Friday and (above) others clean a lane in the vector-hit neighbourhood. Pictures by Manob Chowdhary 

Ranchi: The RMC on Friday slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on the owner of a 3,000sqft godown where water accumulated in old tyres was breeding mosquito larvae. But, activists feel, the action coming more than a week after a chikungunya-dengue outbreak in Hindpiri is too little, too late.

Convener Nadeem Khan of Lahu Bolega, the voluntary outfit that first pressed the panic button, said the corporation should have launched a mega sanitation drive and cracked down on litterbugs as early as June when symptoms of the vector-borne diseases began making guest appearance.

"During the holy month (of Ramazan), a former chairman of the state minority commission, his kin and a social worker had tell-tale signs of chikungunya. These went unnoticed by the RMC and the health department," said Khan, a resident of Hindpiri.

Social worker Md Aslam echoed Khan. "In fact, we sounded an alert in early July. The civil surgeon organised a health camp, but it was a perfunctory exercise because no blood samples were collected for lab tests. Now, after the vector-borne disease has acquired epidemic proportions, the authorities have been jolted out of slumber," he said.

Of an approximate population of one lakh in Hindpiri, which sprawls over Wards 21 to 23, 193 have tested positive for chikungunya till date, 27 have had dengue and another 16 contracted chikungunya and dengue both, confirmed RIMS microbiology head Dr Manoj Kumar.

Ward 23 is the worst-hit, with a fatality two days ago although chikungunya as the cause of death has been officially denied. Local councillor Sajda Khatoon said densely populated Hindpiri never received the services of an adequate number of RMC safai workers.

"There were only 10 drain cleaners, two tractor drivers and two sprayers. Also, the RMC hired a phoney agency for door-to-door garbage collection. The agency workers visit the area only once a week instead of daily. After chikungunya spread, the RMC suddenly rushed 50 labourers, 15 sprayers and six fogging machines. Now, you can't do work pending for two months in two days, can you?" the councillor said.

City manager Sandeep Kumar said they were doing their best. "Today (Friday), we raided a vector den on Hindpiri Lane 7 . One Md Abdullah, a dealer in old tyres, was fined Rs 5,000 for negligence and using his residential premises for commercial purpose," he said, adding that the crackdown would continue.

Assistant medical officer of RMC Dr Kiran Kumari conceded perennial manpower crunch in the corporation, but denied allegations of apathy.

"The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is the vector for chikungunya and dengue viruses, can breed in fresh water accumulated in open utensils, flowerpots and tyres inside homes. Hence, it has nothing to do with unattended garbage or clogged drains outside. The RMC cannot be blamed for the outbreak. We have formed a special team of 50 to clean the area though," she said.

Ranchi civil surgeon Dr Vijay Bihari Prasad backed Dr Kiran. "It is easy to blame (us), but it is a fact that residents of Hindpiri need a lesson or two in personal hygiene. We can conduct awareness campaigns, but people need to follow the guidelines," he said.

The health department has, meanwhile, increased the number of camps to 15. These are being held in Purani Ranchi, Karbala Chowk, Islam Nagar, Azad Bustee, Lohra Kocha, Tharpakhna, Pathalkudwa and near Nepal House, besides Hindpiri. "Each camp has at least one doctor and three paramedics," the civil surgeon said.