‘How do we help people if they don’t cooperate?’

Most Domestic Breeding Checkers say they are denied permission to enter homes to look for mosquito breeding

Ramesh Singh, a Domestic Breeding Checker (DBC) with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), starts his day at 8 a.m. by knocking on doors in his area and requesting entry to check for mosquito breeding.

Of the 26 houses the 41-year-old surveyed on June 2, he was allowed to enter just 11. The Hindu followed a team of 10 DBCs on June 1 and 2, who checked over 380 houses in their zone in Lajpat Nagar’s ward 155.

“Sometimes women don’t allow us entry fearing for their safety, while caretakers say they don’t have the permission to let us in. How do we help people if they don’t cooperate?” said Mr. Singh.

Know the enemy
  • Both dengue and chikungunya are viral diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito
  • The mosquito breeds in stagnant water. It feeds up to three times a day
  • Municipal anti-mosquito and anti-larval measures must be taken within hours of detection of the mosquitoes
  • The symptoms associated with dengue and chikungunya are similar, though there are some key differences
  • Dengue: High fever is the primary symptom of dengue along with at least two of the following: severe headache, severe eye pain, muscle or joint pain, rash, mild bleeding from the nose or gums, and low white cell count; There are different strains of the dengue virus. Dengue 1 and 3 strains are not dangerous as they cause only platelet deficiency with thinning of blood. Dengue 2 and 4 strains are dangerous as they destroy platelets and thicken blood due to capillary leakage; In severe dengue cases, plasma leakage can lead to shock, haemorrhage (internal bleeding), and organ impairment. At this stage, the disease is potentially fatal
  • Chikungunya: Symptoms include high fever, severe joint pain, joint swellings, muscle pain, headaches, and rashes; The disease is usually non-fatal

“I don’t want to go check for mosquito breeding and end up getting charged with a criminal offence. You never know what might happen,” Mr. Singh said, adding that there have been instances of residents assaulting DBCs for challaning them.

“They threaten us by listing political connections. If mosquitoes breeding lead to dengue or chikungunya, these very people will blame us for not doing our job,” he said.

Turned away repeatedly

Mr. Singh stood outside a bungalow in Lajpat Nagar G block on June 2. Despite repeated requests, and later threats, to allow him to check the house for mosquito breeding, he was turned away. He said this was the third time in the past 30 days that he was denied entry. He noted the details in his register and also scribbled the status on the side of the front door.

“People need to understand that we’re not salesmen. They don’t do what is required of them and complain later when someone from their family falls sick,” said Mr. Singh.

On June 1, only 16 of 48 houses allowed the DBCs in. Though residents allowed them to fog their homes the next day, they turned hostile when officials started looking around for signs of mosquito breeding.

During inspection, it was found that empty containers, AC vents, refrigerator trays and feng shui plants were both the most common breeding and ignored spots. In some cases, the residents blamed the authorities for carelessness and even sabotage when signs of breeding was spotted by the inspection teams.

A senior resident of the area commented that many people acted arrogantly when their house was inspected.

Just two houses away, a woman was heard yelling at officials after mosquito larvae were found in her backyard that she had been challaned “unnecessarily”. She was fined after nearly 30 minutes of arguing. The penalty will be decided by a Magistrate.

A challan for at most ?500 is issued to defaulters, which is forwarded to the local Magistrate. The fine has remained the same since the Delhi Municipal Act came into effect in 1970. Civic body officials have been trying to get it raised to ?2,000 since 2010.

The residents’ welfare associations issue ID cards to field workers to allow easy entry into gated neighbourhoods but not much has changed.

“Most private colonies have restricted visitor entry. Even when our staff goes for inspection, they are stopped. If they gain entry at the main gate, residents don’t entertain them,” said a health inspector.

He added that inspection teams in Singapore have the power to break into a locked or inaccessible house during peak season to check for mosquito breeding.

The city requires at least 15,000 DBCs to inspect houses every week. The current strength of 3,500, most of whom are contractual workers, affects work through the year.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 1:41:36 PM |

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