People of the national capital continue to suffer due to vector-borne diseases and no corrective measures are taken by the authorities, the Delhi High Court Friday lamented as it directed the local bodies including the three municipal corporations to constitute task forces to monitor and control mosquito infestation in the city.
The court questioned the authorities as to how can the number of dengue cases double in one year and said that responsibility has to be put on some person and if the numbers do not come down, he or she should be liable for contempt and be ready to go to jail.
"The problem is, in paper work you are all very good, so you prepare reports, on paper you say you will issue orders that there should be no breeding. As if the mosquitoes will stop breeding if you say so in your file. Nothing on the record," an anguished bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh told the counsel for North and South Delhi Municipal Corporation.
The bench said it is a regular cycle and if the authorities have taken proactive steps, as claimed, where is the proof of the pudding? "There is nothing happening. People of Delhi continue to suffer. There are no corrective measures taken by the authorities," it said. The high court directed that each of the local bodies, including East, Sought and North MCDs, Delhi Cantonment Board and New Delhi Municipal Council shall set up task forces headed by their commissioners concerned to monitor and control mosquito breeding.
It said members of the task forces shall themselves visit the sites ensuring that the actual work is being carried out on the ground and asked the authorities to file a common status report before the next date on January 14. The court said the enormity of the problem being faced due to spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, chikungunya and dengue which has resulted in hundreds of deaths, it is high time that the matter is taken up seriously by all the local bodies.
It said a stern message should be sent across the city that any violation of bylaws will be dealt with strictly and directed the Delhi government to initiate the process of amending its bylaws to increase penalty for people who do not keep surroundings clean and allow water to stagnate leading to mosquito breeding. At present, there is a paltry amount of fine for this violation which can go up to Rs 500. "Looking at the laid back attitude of people, you need more teeth. Your fine amount is only Rs 500...," it said.
During the hearing, advocate Divya Prakash Pande, appearing for North and South MCD, told the court that the mobile application created for taking care of the visits done by the MCD employees as a GPS control facility which enables the authority to check whether the staff actually visited the site or not. While perusing a status report filed by the authorities, the court disagreed over the submission that excessive rain was a factor leading to the vector borne diseases.
"You want to put the entire blame on excessive rain. That means we are then left to the Gods. That is only giving excuses," it said. "Every year for the past 20 years we are suffering from the same thing and nothing seems to happen. Why does the Commissioner not take the moral responsibility and tender his resignation? What prevents him?" the bench said. It further said there was a need for more people on the ground to check the situation.
"Probably there is no supervision. Probably because the top man is sitting in his air conditioned office in the months of July or August when this is spreading. It is too hot and sultry to come out. He is not bothered. He is just looking at some paper reports. Window dress is done, paper work is done," it said. The court had earlier pulled up the municipal corporations for their failure to control the spread of dengue which has doubled this year in the national capital, saying there was a complete paralysis in civic administration as no one is bothered about the deaths.
It has been said that the authorities have become so populist in their approach that the policies are being made only in populist ways and they are scared of doing anything that will lose them votes. The court had appointed advocate Rajat Aneja as an amicus curiae to assist it in the mosquito matter, including in diseases like dengue, malaria, and chikungunya. The high court had earlier taken suo motu cognisance on the issue of menace of large scale mosquito breeding in the capital resulting in vector-borne diseases.
-With PTI Inputs