Dhaka, Bangladesh
Costly sting

What others say

Costly sting

A member of the Trinamul Congress has found a rather novel explanation for the toll taken by dengue, a vector-borne disease, that continues to snuff out lives each year in the state. Apparently, the chances of a person getting infected by the dreaded disease depends on divine will. The pious legislator, however, has got his inference wrong. In West Bengal, it is the chief minister who decides which citizen has, or has not, contracted the virus. Ever since the outbreak of the disease - an annual occurrence in West Bengal - there have been reports of the government putting pressure on laboratories and hospitals not to disclose dengue as the cause of death or affliction even though dengue is a ‘notifiable’ condition. Clearly, the Trinamul Congress wants the rest of the country to believe that its bastion is in the pink of health. The chief secretary, perhaps inspired by the chief minister, has denied that the government has anything to hide on the matter. Mamata Banerjee, as is her wont, has also given a political spin on a public health crisis. She has dug up relevant data on similar deaths in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Kerala - the TMC’s opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party, rules the first two states and Ms Banerjee’s old rival, the Left Democratic Front, is in power in the third - to suggest that Bengal is doing a better job at containment. Denial, central to India’s political culture, usually aggravates a crisis. Above 19,000 people have been affected in the state and there have been some deaths, especially in the districts. Ms Banerjee is, unsurprisingly, looking for ways to divert attention from the gravity of the situation. Such a gesture from none other than the chief minister is bound to have serious repercussions on the ground. It would encourage the authorities to conceal information - for example, the hot spots of the disease - which would have been beneficial while formulating a strategy to check the menace. Civic bodies would not be pressed to correct lapses on their part. Sustained campaigns on fumigation or to raise awareness are a rarity anyway. Institutional laxities - Bengal’s largest hospital for infectious diseases reportedly lacks a rudimentary testing kit - would remain undetected. The efforts of doctors, some of whom have been doing commendable work with limited resources, to detect and administer a cure would be compromised. But, above all, it is the people - they have elected Ms Banerjee to power - who would suffer the most on account of the government’s unwillingness to acknowledge the immensity of the crisis and to take steps to tackle it. — The Telegraph

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