Will somebody own up, please
There seems to be no end to the acrimony between the three governing agencies – Centre, Delhi government and the municipal corporations–in the city. As a result, the city, which is inhabited by the powerful, has been left hapless by mosquitoes. It’s a shame that Delhi, which is the capital of an aspiring financial superpower, has its healthcare system blown to smithereens by a scourge of mosquitoes.
Last Sunday the Mayor of North Municipal Corporation of Delhi went to town on its mosquito breeding checkers being denied entry into the official residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. North MCD Mayor Ravinder Gupta alleged non-cooperation by the Chief Minister and added that dengue larvae were found in the houses adjacent to Kejriwal’s official residence.
One is very sure that this would have happened on account of some lack of communication between the CM’s residential staff and mosquito checkers. Moreover, the mayor could have resolved the issue by talking to the chief minister. But there is also a chance that the chief minister did not want to take a chance, lest mosquito breeding larvae was found in some nook or cranny of his bungalow spread over eight acres and blame was put at his door for the mosquito menace. For the uninitiated, the dengue epidemic has claimed 21 lives so far.
That the government suspected foul play on the part of the municipal officials, including the Mayor, became evident through posts by AAP leaders on the micro-blogging site Twitter. They claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was trying to cover up for its failures.
It is a very unfortunate situation where everybody is trying to find fault with the other for the spread of the disease, which has hit the city real hard after a very long gap. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, which has been facing flak for failing to control the dengue situation in the national Capital, has blamed the BJP-run municipal corporations. It alleged that the civic bodies were misguiding people to cover up their failures. The municipal bodies, at their end, have blamed the city government of not releasing funds for healthcare.
The matter has now reached the courts. The Delhi High Court earlier this week directed the Aam Aadmi Party government to give details regarding funds released to civic bodies for dengue fever and malaria control programmes. The court passed the orders hearing a plea seeking direction to concerned authorities to ensure that none of the hospitals in the Capital turn away any patient with symptoms of dengue and award severe penalties for refusing admission. The court had earlier too voiced concern over the rise in dengue cases in the city, asking the Centre and AAP government to explain the steps they took to contain the vector-borne disease.
The Centre, which has several hospitals under its belt in the national Capital, claims that it has issued numerous advisories to the Delhi government. These advisories reportedly sought to “intensify” measures to check mosquito-breeding, after experts warned that the dengue situation might worsen this year. Union Health Ministry says it has issued around 12 advisories about dengue from March until August this year. That despite these advisories, the outbreak of dengue could not be contained speaks volumes of governance deficit in the City of Djins, as historian William Dalrymple would call it.
The lack of governance due to the infighting has also been noted by the Supreme Court. Hearing a plea to intervene and arrest the deficit in governance, the apex court said, “it was aware of serious governance problem faced by Delhi people because of the constant fight between the Centre and Delhi government”. Though the court refused to entertain a petition in the matter of governance shortfall, it made pertinent observation that if the two governments - one led by Narendra Modi at the Centre and the other led by Arvind Kejriwal – did not resolve their disputes, then people will pass their verdict at an appropriate time.
But that appropriate time, as defined by the Supreme Court, would arrive only four-and-half years later, when polls for the Lok Sabha, and thereafter Vidhan Sabha take place. Will the city continue to suffer till then due to the infighting? The governance deficit is getting reflected on various fronts, most conspicuously on the roads that stand battered by rains and jammed by broken down public transport buses.
The bizarre accident in Chandni Chowk, in which a bus crashed into other vehicles due to the heart attack suffered by the driver, shows that there is no monitoring of private buses run under the cluster scheme of the government. It has brought back the nightmarish memories of the Redline and Blueline buses that created mayhem on the roads of the national Capital in the 1990s. It took quite an effort on the part of the then government to ease them out and revive the Delhi Transport Corporation.
Governance deficit is a much bigger malaise for a society than any vector-borne disease. A crisis like the recent dengue outbreak could have been averted by proper planning and awareness drives by both the municipal bodies and the state government. Both failed to deliver, and they are only adding to the crisis by refusing to come together to fight the eruption.
(The author is president Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice and Consulting Editor, Millennium Post. The views expressed are personal)