“Mosquitoes don’t wait for meetings,” the Delhi High Court today said as it ticked off the Centre, AAP government and the municipal corporations here for only holding discussions and not taking any preventive steps to check vector-borne diseases.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said the authorities at the ground level have not taken any preventive steps, including fumigation and issuing of advertisements to inform the public, to curb the spread of vector-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya.
It said that despite today being the National Dengue Day, no awareness programmes or advertisements were run by the authorities.
The bench said the Right to Life under article 19 includes the right to know and people should be informed and awareness created on how to prevent mosquito breeding and the treatments available for dengue and chikungunya, which the court termed as a “painful disease”.
“We will be extremely pained if there is loss of life,” it said and added that if all the authorities had been doing their job, “we would not have been talking like this about these diseases”.
Observing that the authorities have been working till date in a “haphazard manner without any scientific basis”, the bench issued a slew of directions, including geographical mapping of the areas where vector-borne diseases occurred last year and preparing time-schedules for carrying out fumigation, inspections and booking of violations.
The bench said that geographic mapping and the schedules for the preventive tasks ought to have been prepared much earlier and not after the directions of the court.
It asked how the corporations would know where to fumigate if they were not even aware where mosquito breeding was going on.
On being informed that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal were looking into the issue and high-level meetings were taking place, the bench shot back: “Mosquitoes do not wait for the meetings”.
It said already 90 cases of chikungunya and 36 cases of dengue have surfaced, as per news reports, and that too, when humidity levels are yet to rise and the monsoon yet to arrive.
It asked the corporations to file a status report containing not only the mapping but also the preventive steps taken by them and listed the matter for hearing on May 22.
The court also asked them to file on affidavit how many prosecutions have been commenced by the corporations for violations of the bye-laws to prevent mosquito breeding.
During the hearing, the court said that under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, if the corporations’ Commissioners do not perform their obligatory functions with regard to taking any measures for preventing and checking the spread of dangerous diseases, they are liable for prosecution.
It noted that this year the Delhi government has claimed to have increased the number of beds for dengue and chikungunya in the hospitals and said this will not help in preventing the spread of the vector-borne diseases.
As many as 4,431 cases of dengue were reported till the end of 2016, according to a report of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation which tabulates the data on behalf of all municipal corporations in the city.
Out of the 89 chikungunya cases, 19 were recorded last month, while 34 were diagnosed in March, 20 cases detected in January and 13 in February. Three cases have been registered this month itself.
Six cases of dengue were reported in January, four in February, 11 in March and as many in April, while four cases were recorded in May.
The court had earlier said that unauthorised construction which had led to poor sewerage system in the national capital was responsible for these vector-borne diseases.
The bench was hearing two PILs seeking directions to the authorities to take steps to stop the outbreak of these and other diseases in the national capital.
Of the two petitions before the court, one has been filed by law student Gauri Grover who had sought lodging of FIR against directors of hospitals which had denied treatment to a seven-year-old boy who died of dengue and whose parents subsequently committed suicide in September 2015.
She had alleged that the boy had died due to the callous attitude of the hospitals.
The second PIL, filed by advocate Arpit Bhargava, has accused the AAP government and municipal corporations of not acting vigilantly and responsibly to control dengue and chikungunya outbreaks.