After the infamous cradle deaths, West Bengal’s health department is facing yet another grim situation. The state government is grappling to curb the dengue outbreak which has gained epidemic status over the last few days. The menace, especially in Kolkata, is increasing unabated revealing the fumbling efforts and gross unpreparedness of the state government. Officially the government claims that only six have succumbed to the disease, but taking into consideration figures from private hospitals, the number stands ominously at 36 and counting, with over 3,000 people afflicted with the disease. The number of deaths has already crossed 2005 figures of 34 during the Left regime, making it the state’s worst outbreak in seven years.
“It’s clear that the mortality rate is higher this year. Though the government doesn’t want to admit it, the number of deaths, the number of cases and the mortality rate are all causes for concern,” said Surjya Kanta Mishra, Leader of Opposition and CPI(M) Politburo member. In the weeks leading up to the crisis, the Mamata Banerjee government mishandled the alarming situation. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) failed to take preventive action and delay in spreading awareness and setting up of government clinics further added to the problem. Most of the TMC leaders, including Didi, wasted crucial days denying that dengue was even a problem. “The numbers that are quoted by some sections of the media are false and we request everyone not to spread rumours. Not every person suffering from fever is affected by dengue. Their fever could be for other reasons. Some private clinics are conducting rapid test which are not conclusive to determine whether the person is really affected by dengue,” said Banerjee.
While Didi played ‘doc’ and advised the common ‘manush’ to follow proper dieting to fight the disease, even the testing clinics in the city were few and far between with the state government waiting for NS1 Elisa testing kits. Governor M K Narayanan hauled up the TMC-led municipal corporation’s shoddy job while a national team from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme was forced to visit the state.
While the dengue crisis ensured a war of words between the ruling TMC and the Opposition, the CPI(M) has failed to capitalise on the issue. The state Congress has already taken to the streets, approaching the common people and protesting the government’s apathy which led to the spread of the disease. The CPI(M) on the other hand has been content only making political statements without actually taking the issue to the people. “As part of our rectification programme, we were to ensure that issues dogging the masses were discussed with the masses. But even with the ongoing dengue situation we have failed to garner public support,” said a state CPI(M) leader.
-- Sunday Standard