Even as the rest of Bangalore city is gripped by anxiety about the A(H1N1) pandemic, it is chikunguniya that residents of Devara Jeevanahalli (D.J. Halli) continue to grapple with. The disease that hit this locality of slums in May seems to have only entrenched itself since then.
This area with its open drains and sewers, and its contaminated water sources, appears to have fallen off the governance map of the city. D.J. Hallis poorest residents live in eight small locality clusters with 20 to 30 families in each. The dwellings are surrounded by stinking stagnant water and floating garbage, prime breeding ground for mosquitoes. Out of the 100 or so residents in each cluster almost 90 have suffered chikunguniya in the past three months. Several of them continue to suffer joint pains and lingering weakness.
Nasreens family of four women and two boys who live in Roshan Nagar (Old) are suffering the side effects of chikunguniya. No one from the corporation has come to inspect our surroundings after the token visit they made following our protest on May 11, says Ms. Nasreen.
Ms. Nasreen pulls out a packet of bright orange and white tablets, with no label on it, that the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) clinic has prescribed. A packet of 30 tablets costs Rs. 10 at the private drug store which issues the pills without prescription. The BBMP clinic sometimes charges us Rs. 40 for a packet, and sometimes Rs. 200, she says. These tablets have to be shared by six people, and to meet the high costs of medication Ms. Nasreen has to work overtime at weddings where she cooks and cleans, despite her crippling joint pains.
Residents say that they are sometimes told by those at the corporation clinic to stop eating meat if they want to get rid of their diseases.
Meanwhile, in the shanty opposite lives Afsar, who, despite severe joint pain he has suffered for the past three months, must ply his trade of transporting mutton on his cycle-cart. His family members feel he had both chikunguniya and dengue at the same time, and are thankful he is alive.
This slum in D.J. Halli has seen no improvement of its sanitary facilities. Toilets are flooded with sewage that even enters the drinking water system. How can we get rid of the mosquitoes? is the question every resident asks. The BBMP staff fog only D.J. Halli main road with mosquito repellent and leave the interior slums out.
In Doddananagar layout, where the first cases of chikunguniya were reported in May, open drains remain open. Residents of houses on either side of the drains say they have developed respiratory disorders. We burn trash to smoke the mosquitoes out, but we end up coughing and there is blood in our phlegm, said a resident.
This is one part of Bangalore where A(H1N1) influenza has not created panic. In fact, not many have even heard of it. It is chikunguniya that is stalking them.