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Rs 1 lakh slap with mosquito sting

The owner of any premises that fails to comply with municipal recommendations on mosquito eradication can be fined up to Rs 1 lakh under a new rule that takes effect on Friday, replacing the provision that required civic officials to move court to impose a maximum penalty of Rs 5,000.

By Subhajoy Roy in Calcutta
  • Published 1.06.18
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Calcutta: The owner of any premises that fails to comply with municipal recommendations on mosquito eradication can be fined up to Rs 1 lakh under a new rule that takes effect on Friday, replacing the provision that required civic officials to move court to impose a maximum penalty of Rs 5,000.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) Act of 1980 had to be amended to give the municipal commissioner discretionary powers to slap this hefty penalty as a deterrent to ignoring basic vector-control norms like not letting water accumulate in flower pots and containers.

The amendment was passed in the Assembly in March, striking a blow for dengue prevention that almost entirely depends on the efficacy of vector-control strategies.

"We have published the gazette notification and the provision will be effective from June 1 in the CMC belt," said a senior official of the municipal affairs department.

Until now, any penalty for failure to comply with the norms would depend on the municipal court. The civic authorities could at best argue for a fine that was 20 times lower than the highest amount stipulated by the new law.

As the final authority, the municipal commissioner is now allowed to depute a junior official to slap a higher penalty for non-compliance.

The amendment also allows health workers of the CMC to forcibly enter a compound to look for places where mosquitoes breed. One of the complaints of municipal field teams is that they are often barred from entering households to check for potential breeding places of mosquitoes.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the dengue virus is known to breed in a spoonful of clean, stagnant water.

Several people died in the outbreak of dengue in Calcutta last year. Officially, 2,374 cases were reported in the CMC area. Public health experts cite lack of awareness among the prime reasons for the spread of the disease.

The new provision in the CMC act empowers the civic body to take stringent action on the ground that the carelessness of one household can pose a risk to the entire community living in the vicinity. The website of the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that the female Aedes aegypti, which is the primary transmitter of the dengue virus, has a flying range of 400 metres.

Based on the amendment, the CMC will fix a time frame for a resident or occupier of a property to destroy breeding places of mosquitoes, failing which civic workers will do the job. In that case, the CMC will be entitled to the cost of work and the owner or occupier "shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to Rs 1 lakh only".

Till the amendment came about, executive health officers of each borough and medical officers of a ward would file cases against offenders in the municipal court. It was up to the court to decide the penalty.

"This was a cumbersome process and also took a lot of time. Besides, the maximum fine was Rs 5,000, which often is not a strong enough deterrent, especially for multi-storey apartment blocks," a CMC official said.

In Mumbai, increasing the penalty for non-compliance with vector-control norms has proved effective.

Rajam Naringrekar, insecticide officer at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, said cases are filed in the court, which can impose a fine up to Rs 10,000.

"Those who are fined once mostly do not repeat the mistake," he told Metro.