West Bengal districts are witnessing a serious dearth of entomologists at a time when encephalitis continues to claim many lives in the state.
For the last 15 years, there has been no recruitment of entomologists in the health service facilities in the districts, state health secretary Moloy De said.
"I can't tell the reason. But this is a fact. Although at the state health department headquarters here we have a few entomologists, there is none in the districts," De said.
According to state health officials, an entomologist's job is to visit areas where there has been an outbreak of vector-borne disease.
Encephalitis and its deadly variant Japanese Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne viral infection, has taken more than 200 lives in the state, especially in north Bengal.
According to health officials, presently there are no entomologists in the districts, especially in north Bengal where the outbreak is the most severe.
Director of Health Services B R Satpathy said no recruitment had taken place in the districts for several years.
He, however, said, "We have taken measures to tackle this manpower shortage problem."
De noted that the State Health Department had already sanctioned recruitment of entomologists on contract in the districts to tackle the problem.
"The decision has been taken long before the outbreak of encephalitis. It will be implemented soon," he said.
According to De, last year the state had under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme sought sanctioning of 20 entomologists for the state.
"We had applied for 20 entomologists across the state, but only one post was sanctioned. This year we will again apply for 20 posts. Let us see what happens," he said.
Asked how the Health Department is tackling the situation in the districts in the absence of entomologists, Satpathy said, "At the Health Department headquarters we have some entomologists and we at times take the help of entomologists employed with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.