The news came after the death of a district court magistrate M. Jayamma due to dengue shock syndrome earlier this week, which spurred lawyers across the state to boycott the courts and which The Wire described as bringing “into sharp focus the inability of the Telangana government in controlling the vector-borne disease.”
The High Court, cognisant of Jayamma’s death, expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the state government in handling cases of the disease which jumped from 85 in January to 3,809 in October – more than a 500 percent increase. According to some media reports, the number of cases since January could be as high as 4,500.
Notices were issued by the High Court to Chief Secretary S. K. Joshi and Principal Secretary of Municipal Administration and Urban Development Arvind Kumar, according to The News Minute. Subsequently, Joshi, Kumar, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) commissioner Lokesh Kumar and superintendent of the government-run Fever Hospital Dr Shankar appeared before the court to argue their case – and while they said 421 measures were outlined by authorities to tackle dengue fever, the Court was unimpressed.
As reported by The New Indian Express, the state government has until the end of November to correct course on handling dengue. At that point, unless improvements are made, the state government will have to pay the Rs 50 lakh sum to families of those who have lost their lives to dengue and recoup Rs 5 lakh from the salaries of the officers concerned. The convention of a high-level committee has been mandated by the High Court in addition, to be headed by Chief Secretary Joshi, and a report must be submitted to the Court on a weekly basis.
Multiple petitions were filed before the High Court over the state government’s performance in tackling dengue fever. “The High Court pulled up the state government for failing to control the dengue crisis and take any concrete steps,” said the counsel of one petitioner. “It is nothing but negligence from the side of the authorities.”
Dengue fever is a national problem at present. As of October 13th, 67,000 cases of the disease have been reported from across India. Karnataka led in the number of cases, with 12,756.
“I am not happy with the way [the] government is working, nobody is bothered,” said Telangana High Court Chief Justice R. S. Chauhan. “[The] High Court can be harsh when it wants to. We will not shut our eyes. If the State government is not serious about the issue we will make sure the government takes the issue seriously.”