Watching Times Now and Arnab Goswami can be an intellectually risky proposition – this is something we all know. No other journalist, except Lord Goswami, can say with a straight face that she/he knows more about an illness or medicine than a trained medical doctor.
This is what Goswami suggested when he was debating the Dengue and Chikungunya outbreak in Delhi with a doctor on his Newshour show on 14th September! His pre-meditated line of questioning (ranting) was predictable, superficial and biased.
Even as the national capital Delhi is panic stricken by a spurt in Dengue and Chikungunya cases, little was being offered in terms of concrete solutions and overall accountability of various stake holdeew2 jhgsxgjl; b rs in Delhi.
The media, led by Times Now was happy indulging all sides in a political “tu tu main mai” on the issue rather than fix accountability on institutions whose job it was to prevent the current state of affairs. Perhaps, if Arnab did actually visit the cramped gallis of old Delhi leaving the comfort of his ivory towered air conditioned studio in upscale Mumbai his questions would have made more sense.
Equipped with public records and available information and leaving out my own biased opinions as a political activist aside, let me pose a few factual questions that can give some perspective and direction to the conversation we ought to be having now- Mr Goswami is free to borrow any questions from the one’s below provided he believes that the “Nation wants to know” the truth and not just his Saheb’s Mann ki Baat on this issue!
1) It has been admitted by civic officials last year that fogging is not effective in dealing with Dengue. Between then and now, what alternative methods have been suggested by the Central government to deal with this have been thought of and implemented, given that Dengue and Chikungunya cases are rising across the country?
2) How many review meetings did the LG, representative of the Central government in Delhi, who is the boss of the national capital, call for on this issue anticipating the outbreak, in the last few weeks? What actions had been directed to be taken to ensure government run hospitals in Delhi had the necessary arrangements to deal with any crisis? Those who advocated placing the LG above the Delhi CM in terms of power structure in the capital must now tell us on whom the accountability and responsibility should be fixed. With greater power comes greater responsibility so will the LG and through him the Central government accept a larger proportion of the responsibility in this case?
3) Let us assume there is limited success in undertaking fogging. What kind of regular schedule for the same was devised by the three Municipal Corporations of Delhi? When did they begin the cycle? How much budget was allocated towards it and what part of the money has been spent by each body till now? How many fogging machines have been allocated for every ward by each municipal corporation? Are all the positions in the corporations including those of the Health Officers, Anti Malaria Officers, Anti Malaria Inspectors, tasked with fighting this menace been filled or are the majority of them lying vacant? If most of them are vacant, how will measures taken by the corporation or the state government be implemented? (This will give us an idea about how seriously existing measures are being implemented)
4) Most experts unanimously believe that prevention and control through surveillance and anti-larval measures using larvicides remain the first line of defence in case of Dengue. Had MCD conducted proper surveillance and inspected an adequate number of households, could there have been so many cases of dengue and chikungunya in Delhi in the first place? Entomological surveillance to identify breeding and conduct antilarval measures is the main job of the Health Departments under the corporations! Can the corporations put out how many households were surveyed on a weekly basis in the weeks running upto the outbreak?
5) Almost Rs 360 crores is to be received by Delhi to implement the Swacch Bharat Mission of which Rs 139crores has been received by the 3 corporations till May 2016 but news reports suggest that the local bodies did not spend that money. The corporations have often complained about scarcity of funds. We have seen Safai Karmcharis go on strike after not being paid their dues for months. Why then have these funds not been utilised until now? Who is responsible for this negligence?
At a critical time like this what is needed is for all levels of government- centre , state and local government and all political parties to function in unison. The Delhi unit of the Congress party has established a Helpline Whatsapp number which will provide Delhi’s citizens access to emergency health facilities and register complaints with the necessary departments. Delhi government’s minister Kapil Mishra too has reached out to all the elected representatives of Delhi, 7 MPs, 70MLAs and 272 councillors cutting across party lines, through his #OneDelhi campaign to enlist their support to tackle this crisis. Some MPs from BJP promptly joined Kapil Sharma in doing what the MCD should have done much before.
Rather than make a health crisis an opportunity for scoring brownie points, should it not be used as a chance to unite forces and reach out to the people? For a change it would really help if Mumbai based Arnab Goswami not only asked the right questions to fix accountability but also avoided playing this partisan, petty blame game. The challenges Delhi faces are much bigger than his agenda and TRP driven journalism.
(Views expressed here are the author’s own. www.jantakareporter.com doesn’t subscribe to them.)