Battle against dengue: BMC ropes in law students to sue those responsible for breeding spots

The decision is due to shortage of hands in its legal department, which has resulted in a poor prosecution rate

An Fotis Hospital worker carries a fumigation machine in a Hospital area. According to a survey conducted by Mumbai based NGO the incidence of dengue rose by almost 176 percent while Malaria cases have risen by 71 percent in the city. Pic/Sameer Markande
An Fotis Hospital worker carries a fumigation machine in a Hospital area. According to a survey conducted by Mumbai based NGO the incidence of dengue rose by almost 176 percent while Malaria cases have risen by 71 percent in the city. Pic/Sameer Markande

While dengue cases have been breaking out rapidly, the short-staffed BMC has been much slower in fighting back. Less than half the civic wards have legal officers, so despite issuing thousands of notices over mosquito breeding spots, the corporation has prosecuted only 6.9% of the cases. Now, the BMC has decided to rope in law graduates to speed up the fight against the deadly disease.

The poor rate of prosecution against dengue defaulters came up in a BMC meeting last week, when municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta was taking stock of civic issues; he then advised officials to enlist law graduates to ensure faster legal action.

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Apart from fumigating public spaces, the BMC also inspects residential and commercial areas for potential breeding spots for the dengue mosquito. File pic
Apart from fumigating public spaces, the BMC also inspects residential and commercial areas for potential breeding spots for the dengue mosquito. File pic

Under, section 381 (B) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, 1888, the BMC can serve notices to a residential society or person if mosquito breeding — which can lead to dengue or malaria — is found in their house or premises. Apart from imposing fines, officials can also prosecute the offenders in court to send out a stronger message.

Slow pace of action
As of August, 13,593 notices were served to housing societies and commercial structures where breeding spots for dengue mosquitoes were found. However, the civic body followed through on only 950 cases with prosecution. Officials blamed a severe staff crunch for this slow pace of action.

Ajoy Mehta, BMC chief
Ajoy Mehta, BMC chief

Out of 24 administrative wards, only 11 have advocates to follow up on the anti-dengue drive. So, even though the civic body has been able to collect R27 lakh in fines, the prosecution rate is very poor.

Reinforcements
"There is a shortfall of at least 13 people in the law department. To make up for this shortage, law graduates shall be hired on a temporary basis till we address all the notices that have been served," said a BMC official.

Officials will approach law colleges and tell them about this scheme, so that they can help the BMC, as well as gain some experience. The students will be paid from the amount collected in fines.

Read Story: Please call us if you pay over Rs 600 for dengue test: FDA

A senior civic official said, "Civic chief has asked to pay them about 5 to 10% of the fine collected from violators. This will definitely ease the burden on staffers who are also engaged in addressing other issues like unauthorised structures."

13,593
Number of notices issued for dengue breeding spots

Rs 27 lakh
Fine collected so far

6.9%
The percentage of cases that have been prosecuted by BMC

Rs 10k
Maximum penalty that can be imposed if a mosquito breeding spot is found

Deadly dengue
Deaths: 3
Total suspected dengue cases: 9,796 (from January to September)
Suspected cases in September: 3,287
Confirmed cases in September: 296
*All figures from BMC

 

BMC commissioner says

Speaking to mid-day, BMC boss Ajoy Mehta said, "There are several cases of prosecution pending in courts since no one is following up on them till the end. The purpose of hiring these graduates is to complete the pending prosecution against the society or person. If we successfully complete at least one or two cases, people will start becoming careful, which will lead to a drop in the dengue menace." Despite repeated attempts, Insecticide Officer Rajan Naringrekar was not available for comment.

 

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