One of the saddest days for Indian cinema — the death of filmmaker Yash Chopra on October 21 — should also be wake-up call for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as well as this city’s residents. Dengue is a scourge that affects us all, regardless of where you stay and what your bank balance is. What is sad, however, is the fact that it should take the death of an accomplished man like Chopra to make the BMC tell the city about the dangers of a dreaded disease.
Since January this year, the BMC claims, 702 cases of dengue have been identified, even though some medical experts say this figure could be much higher as many family physicians never even realise it is dengue and treat an affected patient just as they would treat someone with viral fever. In October alone, the number of identified cases so far is 198, close to a third of the overall figure for the year.
This makes for sad reading, yes, but it also means that BMC’s sanitation and fumigation department may not be doing their job well. It should alarm anybody that the BMC’s fumigation department alone has a staff of 2,700. It has a budget of slightly over Rs 1 crore, which, considering the size of the staff as well as the population it serves, is a minuscule amount. Perhaps even laughable.
The BMC should be aggressively pursuing a clean city agenda. If stagnant water is the cause of mosquito-breeding, then it should make the people responsible pay for it with fines or loss of some privileges. People are still unaware about how dengue spreads. For instance, the Aedes mosquito, primarily responsible for the spread of the dengue virus, bites mostly in the morning.
Since there is no approved vaccine for dengue, it is only awareness, advocacy and elimination of mosquito habitats that will help contain dengue’s spread. But for that to happen, we don’t need a Yash Chopra to die. We need an aware citizenry and an active BMC.