Mosquito worship in Jharkhand's Bokaro District reflects disenchantment with health authorities
Tired of the civic authorities' inability to counter the spread of dengue and malaria, residents of Jharkhand's Bokaro District have taken to worshipping an idol of a mosquito, and praying to it to show mercy.
Residents of the district's Chas municipality have long complained that the authorities pay no heed to their demands for dealing with the issues of stagnating water, open refuse and clogged drains, all of whom are boosting the breeding of mosquitoes that carry diseases such as dengue, malaria and Chikungunya.
They complained that the poor were worst-hit by the problem.
"Dengue and malaria have spread across the Chas area. No one is acting on the situation. As a last resort, we have come to the mosquito with folded palms, entreating it not to bite us and to go away to the jungle. The drains are clogged and dirty. Many people have been diagnosed with dengue. Not all of them can afford medicines. Those who have mosquito-nets are using them, but the poor are dying," said Shubhangi Devi, a resident.
Under the aegis of a local consumers' association, 'devotees' came before an elaborate idol of a mosquito, performing traditional 'aarti' rituals, lighting incense and 'diyas' (clay lamps), beseeching the 'god' who held such power over their lives.
The authorities on the other hand, claimed that they were doing all they could to address the issue.
"The government has made all necessary provisions to combat the disease. We conduct larvae-killing and fogging exercises. We also spray insecticides, and raise awareness by visiting each house," said the malaria control officer for the district, A. K. Poddar.
In the past 50 years there has been a 30-fold jump in dengue cases. The World Health Organisation officially puts infections at 50-100 million a year, though many experts think this assessment from the 1990s badly underestimates the disease.
Most patients survive dengue, but it is estimated to kill about 20,000 every year, many of them children, who are not able to fight against it.