'Won't fetch votes': Dengue still ain't Delhi civic poll plank

NewsDrum Desk
24 Nov 2022

New Delhi, Nov 24 (PTI) Devanand Sharma was hoping that issues of dengue and workers engaged in combating vector-borne diseases would figure in the campaign for the civic polls in Delhi.

But, to his disappointment and thousands of the domestic breeding checking (DBC) workers, dengue or their problems have not been a part of poll issues.

Even issues related to landfill sites have been raised in the campaigns, but dengue is not a poll plank despite over 3,000 dengue cases being reported in Delhi, Sharma rued.

"Because, raising the dengue issue won't get them votes," said Sharma, head of a DBC workers' union.

He alleged indifference to their plight by all three major parties -- the BJP, AAP and the Congress.

The 49-year-old has demanded that the party that comes to power in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) should regularise them from their current daily-wage status.

The high-stakes MCD polls are due on December 4 and votes will be counted on December 7.

"They call us the backbone of the fight against dengue and malaria. But we have been struggling since 1996 to get permanent-employee status," Sharma said.

"Our long-standing demand has not been met. In this election also, no one is talking about our issues or even the rising dengue cases." According to an MCD report, 3,044 cases of dengue and zero death have been reported till November 18. In 2021, the disease had claimed 23 lives.

In 2015, the metropolis had witnessed a massive dengue outbreak, with the cases crossing 10,600 in October. It was Delhi's worst dengue outbreak since 1996.

Cases of vector-borne diseases, such as dengue and malaria, are usually reported between July and November, sometimes stretching till mid-December.

Sharma, president of the Anti-Malaria Ekta Karmachari Union, said he was among the 3,500 field workers who were hired as "beldars" (workers) soon after the 1996 outbreak.

They have been termed "DBC workers" later and their number has now reduced to about 3,100.

"We've been demanding permanent-employee status for a long time. But the system wants us to remain in such a position," he said, adding that the payment as a daily-wage worker was paltry.

Sharma said they had held a protest in the first week of November to press for their demands.

"Soon, we will write letters to the lieutenant governor , Delhi government and even the PM, telling about our plight," he said.

J A Khan, another DBC worker, had joined the then unified MCD in mid-1990, seen its trifurcation in 2012 and their unification again into a single civic body.

"But our condition has remained unchanged. Our plight is still the same," Khan said.

He added that dengue or DBC workers were not part of anyone's campaign even as politicians try to "appease" minority communities, women and other voters during election time.

"We feel dejected," he said. "Our demand is simple, that we should get regularized." Khan's colleague, Sandeep Kumar, said the DBC workers are like brothers and they stand united.

"Some elements may try to drive a wedge between two communities for votes, but we stand together in our demands," Kumar said.

"We're disappointed by all political parties that are vying for votes right now." PTI KND HMB

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