Delhi, popularly known as the City of Djinns, is the capital city of India, a city with the longest standing history; where even the Pandavas, as per mythology, had a dominant rule. Delhi has always been known for its intricate network of cultures and traditions, intertwined together to form one of the most vibrant and colourful cities of India.
It has a wealth of architectural heritage with a rich history, and it would not be amiss to say that every resident of this wonderful city feels proud of being a Delhi-ite. It is the city which famous Urdu poets of the Mughal-era Meer, Muhammad Taqi Meer and Ibrahim Zauq refused to abandon even for the most lucrative offer else where, because they loved it.
But things seem to be taking a turn in the recent past, and for the worse. While pollution and over-population, soaring crime rate, notorious rape culture, poor public services, and haphazard and unplanned expansion are becoming a bane for this wonderful city, the icon of India is now facing one more disaster.
An epidemic of dengue and chikungunya has spread across the city. This has been the worst ever outbreak in the last six years, with the number of registered cases of dengue touching 1300 and a death toll of 19 due to this vector-borne disease.
The Spread of Dengue and Chikungunya
As per the latest report released by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), 220 fresh cases of dengue were added on last week to the 607 cases recorded until September 17th, 2016.
- Approximately 1,378 cases of dengue have been reported in the city so far this year.
- While this vector-borne disease is prevalent in September-October, 652 cases were reported in August alone.
- 1057 confirmed cases of chikungunya have come to the fore until the the second week of September.
- While 15 deaths have been reported due to chikungunya so far, the authorities are still refusing to accept it and keeping the tally at zero.
Delhi is not new to facing this calamity, though. It has been the same story in the recent past. The following figures will speak for themselves:
- In 2015 15,867 dengue cases were reported. It claimed 60 lives. This has been the worst in the last 20 years.
- In 2011, the number of people affected by chikungunya had reached a three-figure mark.
- Dengue claimed 423 lives in the city in the worst ever outbreak in 1996.
The Epic Failure of MCD
Before we speak of the pathetic state of affairs of the functioning of MCD, we must understand that vector-borne diseases like chikungunya and dengue spread because of the proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation. Garbage dumps and stagnant water are the perfect breeding spots for these mosquitoes.
According to Section 42 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, “The obligatory functions of the municipal corporations are the construction, maintenance and cleansing of drains and drainage works and of public latrines, urinals and similar conveniences; scavenging, removal and disposal of filth, rubbish and other obnoxious or polluted matters; reclamation of unhealthy localities, the removal of noxious vegetation and generally the abatement of all nuisances; measures for preventing and checking the spread of dangerous diseases; lighting, watering, and cleansing of public streets and other public places.”
The state of hygiene in Delhi goes to prove that the MCD has failed in every aspect of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957. A recent study by the ‘Centre for Civil Society’ shows that MCD has failed to allocate properly the funds appropriated to it under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan of the Central Government.
In fact, the study conducted shows that the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has not even spent a single penny of the Rs 46.28 crore allocated to it towards the hygiene of North Delhi. The apathy of the MCD could be clearly seen by the deplorable conditions in the localities of north, east and south Delhi. Dumped garbage, filth in both residential as well as commercial areas spoke volumes of this apathy of the MCD.
The following are the worst affected areas of Delhi as far as hygiene is concerned, where garbage can be seen dumped close to residential areas, community parks and commercial areas:
- Hasanpur in Patparganj
- Okhla, a suburban colony in south Delhi
- Karawal Nagar in North East Delhi
- East Delhi’s Mayur Vihar
- Residential colony at Satbari
Playing the blame game, with no empathy for the loss of lives due to chikungunya and dengue, the Delhi Government has blatantly stated that the the primary cause of fatality is “co-morbid conditions” in the patients suffering from the same.
The blame game further continued with the Aam Aadmi Party’s allegations that the conditions have worsened because the Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung does not work on weekends. The LG’s office and the Delhi Government have been sparring over the issue of mismanagement of the health crisis in Delhi.
Effect on the Economy
Human lives are precious. One cannot put a cost to it, statistically speaking. The economy of India is also bearing the brunt of the widespread epidemic of chikungunya and dengue in Delhi. The vector-borne diseases have had a huge negative impact on the Travel and Tourism Industry for the upcoming winter season.
The quarterly period of October-December is a major revenue-earning period as with Dussehra, Diwali and Christmas the southern region of Asia turns into one of the most-visited places. This quarter is also seen as a major revenue-earning period for the travel sector.
- Delhi is the major transit point for foreign tourists wanting to visit Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and other locations in the western state of Rajasthan. In fact, about 35% of India’s total foreign tourist influx in Delhi is because of the same reason. Now, with the epidemic of the vector-borne diseases, not only Delhi but all the tourist destinations in the Western part of the country stand affected.
- The subsidiary industries that earn their revenue based on the tourism industry, including aviation, taxi services, hospitality industry, and the like, are also bearing the brunt through the loss of revenue because of this situation.
- “With increasing cases of chikungunya and dengue and the kind of negative reaction on the tourists, the traffic is set to drop drastically, leaving a bruising impact on businesses such as hotels, airlines, taxi operators and restaurants. Many tour operators are now gearing up with precautionary steps for foreigners arriving in Delhi during the peak tourist season set to begin from October,” said D.S. Rawat, secretary general, ASSOCHAM.
- Delhi residents are asking their family and friends, who often visit from abroad and other parts of India, to stay away this holiday season due to the onslaught of chikungunya and dengue.
- Many of the residents are unable to travel out of the city, again affecting the tourism industry, as children and other family members are falling prey to these diseases.
- The Film and Entertainment Industry is also feeling the bite (pun intended), with crew members contracting the diseases while shooting on location.
It goes without saying that Delhi is an important node in the global economic system. The Central Government through missions such as Digital India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan is trying to present a positive picture of a developing nation which is slowly emerging and coming to the fore, be it in the fields of technology, peace, or a clean and green environment. At such a juncture, the present scenario in Delhi does not speak very well of the nation on the international forum.
The State Government really needs to pull up its socks and deal with this situation with a positive outcome at the earliest. The population of Delhi also needs to be aware of the fact that the government cannot achieve anything without the full support of the public and work towards a cleaner, greener and pollution-free Delhi.
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