Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Chikun-duniya episode

What we know: More than 100 people dead in Kerala in under 4 weeks; possibly due to a viral disease with mosquito as vector. The state authorities remain clueless, and the public continue to be a donkey at their mercy.

What we have heard and seen so far:

Kerala Legislative Assembly:
Opposition MLA's prepare for walk-out over the issue of alarming deaths in Kerala, and question the Honorable Health Minister for answers.

Honorable health minister: "What death? Where? When? Nobody has died in my state! What chikungunya? Nobody has ever died in Kerala because of this Chikun thing.."

Opposition walks out, assembly is adjourned while mosquitoes continue to bite and people continue to die.

Union Health Minister, during his in-and-out visit to the state to "assess the situation": "It is certainly not Chikungunya!"

Honorable CM 's office, Trivandrum:
CM:"Those who say the deaths were not due to Chikungunya are duty bound to make it clear how such a large number of deaths had occurred in Alappuzha." (Not sure if he realized his own health minister was the first to deny the deaths!)

Indian Medical Association (Kerala __ Chapter): "The deaths since early September were possibly not due to chikungunya"

Principal, Government Homeopathic Medical College: "Homeo medicines such as Uppttorium (!!#??*?!@), Rextokes(!?@##??!) and Brayonia (!!??##!^!) were effective for prevention and cure of the disease"

Kerala Home minister: "As the World Health Organisation (WHO) has come out with a report saying that the fever widespread here is not chikungunya, things have cheered up. There have been no reports of cancellation by tourists who have already booked to travel to Kerala" (While our beloved minister is cheering himself up, people are still dying!!)

Union Tourism Minister: "The tourist officers posted abroad have been directed to dispel any misconceptions about the diseases and inform the visitors that these are not contagious"

An awakened Kerala StateHealth Minister: " The Kerala government will launch a sanitation and "anti-mosquito" drive"

Alphonse, a social activist: "If you enter a government hospital in Kerala, you are sure to get some disease"

The wisest and the most literate men who rule the land (quick to capitalize on the whole fiasco, not bothered about either the mosquitoes or the deaths): " There is no chikungunya in Kerala. Its all made up and a ploy by capitalists. A company from the US is selling Chikungunya card tests and making huge profits! How can we let this happen in Kerala?" (The entire state did not have a lab with facilities to test for the disease until a couple of days ago, and the card-tests were in demand because people wanted to rule themselves out of the disease.)

The show goes on..and now its a bit more complicated with Dengue fever also being rampant across the nation.

Ouch! I got bitten by a mosquito! Let me get that Uppttorium..


quills said...

LOL! MC, I hate to laugh esp when this is not a matter to laugh at, but the ludicrous responses and attitude of "our leaders" evokes only that feeling unfortunately.

They are totally clueless about what's happening in their own state and instead of trying to find out possible solutions, goes around in circles, denying and passing on the buck.


And you better dunk yourself in Odomos! :)

abhishek said...


Talk about getting confused, huh?

Wonder if there's a way to get a hold of the WHO report.

Anyways, this whole fiasco lays to waste the idea that our leaders know what they're doing. When Ramadoss came out and said that his experts don't think it's chikugunya. Now, the WHO team has passed its verdict and Achuthanandan is silent. In fact, the whole media has relegated the issue to back page news now that the truth is known.

What this exposes is the serious lack of any medical facilities in our state beyond the basic vaccination and maternity wards. Everything else, including the virology center, are seriously inadequate.

silverine said...

ROFL :))

This is hilarious!!! And like Quills me too feel bad about laughing but I think we have found a new disease that makes the affected unable to recognise or acknowledge Chikungunya :))
I wonder what is called?

Antimosquite drive sounds good, I wonder how they will do it? Issue them restraining orders? I am sure it will be very effective!!!
Am cracking up here =))

abhishek said...

i think they will prescribe iv fluid with salt for everyone. that way, our blood won't be sweet enough for mosquitoes....

chicken-kunja is a subliminal message from the anti-poultry industry!

Anonymous said...

such is the sad state of affairs in our state.

Anonymous said...

What a dismal state!

People die...authorities denying that...epidemic prevalent..eyes shut to that...homeo guys having a boom...


Jiby said...

to add one more character to this episode i present to you a possible future muraleedharan
the news item may be archived.

our health-care system supposed to be the best in india, now sure needs a revamp. a friend who worked at primary health-care centres in a few villages was talking abt all the corruption, inefficiency and govt's ignorance towards them.

the worst part of all this is the in-fighting within the govt. i am hearing that VS is strangled from all sides by Pinarayi's ministers. how can any serious work get done in the circumstances?

one small correction: ramadoss said, it is certainly not chikunguniya. u left out the not.

Mind Curry said...

@ quills - you summed it up in two words : pathetic and clueless

@ abhishek - the WHO team must have rushed back with their lives to change their previous reports about the wonderful healthcare system in kerala.

@ silverine - disease that makes the affected unable to recognise or acknowledge Chikungunya
thats hilarious!!

yeah restraining order should work..if not they can let out our goons and do a hartal.

@ kuttan - its only rarely that the truth comes out!

@ alex - authorities being ignorant about people dying is the worst!!

@ jiby - to some extent i think its good that pinarayi's ministers are keeping achu occupied! else he woulda taken back kerala 100 years instead of the 25years he is doing now!

i changed the ramadoss thing..that was an error. thank you.

Mosilager said...

How feasible is it for communities themselves to organise to make sure that there are no pools of water standing around in cities and to ensure that all drains are closed instead of waiting for government to pocket money from anti mosquito drives?

Chikungunya was epidemic in Reunion for about a year and the spread was completely predictable, so they should have launched an anti-mosquito drive then. Wish somebody would listen to us virologists (or budding virologist in my case). Dengue is also a real concern, dengue haemorrhagic fever is no joke... and if it's in Delhi it'll show up in Kerala soon.

Babin said...

My aunt and my cousine in Cherthala had Chickun Guniya.. They are okay.. but my aunt said, there is hardly any old persons left in her neighbourhood after the outbreak:(

It is really a shame to see this happening in Kerala.

PCM said...

Nobody addresses the real problem. This is an annual feature, the diseases spread by mosquitoes, by whatever name you call it. It comes with the rains and water-logging. Temporary measures to contain the disease or to destroy the mosquitoes are like ‘icing the cake’. Superficial measures taken once the disease sets in will only serve the politicians to gain some publicity.
The real problem is water-logging, which has to be dealt with through a long term project. The level lands in the sea shore have no chance of the rain water seeping in. It remains on the top soil in the backyards of all houses and mixes with the water from the septic tanks and all the dirty water that comes from the houses. This body of water has nowhere to go and will remain there for months, until the rains are over and sunshine settles in. Once the water table goes down, the problem is temporarily solved, until the next year’s rains. This repeats every year, paving way for the mosquitoes to multiply and spread the vector-born diseases.
The only permanent solution is providing the towns with effective drainage systems. I know that some Dutch scientists had conducted a study in Alleppey some forty years back and submitted their proposal for an effective sewage and drainage system, but the authorities never acted on it. It should still be possible to find out a means of draining away all this dirty water, if the Government has a will to do it. Then, and then only, will the problem of vector-born diseases in the coastal areas will find a permanent solution.

abhishek said...

Actually this episode makes a lot of sense if you assume one thing. Everyone likes status quo.

Sreemathi "The Teacher"
Vested interest: Health minister - has to maintain Kerala's "excellent" health report.
Result: she denies the disease exists.

Vested interest: Chief Minister - has to maintain political standing and show he has a handle on the situation.
Result: Pounces on the nearest vulnerable culprit - chikungunya to expiate blame. No one bothers to understand the disease.

Vested interest: Has several interests with respect to dengue and AIMMS in Delhi, but state interests are not his concern.
Result: Sends virology experts and presents his experts' opinions

Vested interest: secure power and gain political leverage
Result: Fruitless walkouts and a lot of ruckus

What's funny is that the people who are afflicted the most are mute.... Why should they have to turn to the government to improve their living conditions.

In Chennai, people form local citizen groups including Exnora to take care of garbage disposal and civic hygiene.

Only a society with a sense of civic cooperation can be healthy. Otherwise, public utilities like roads and sewers face what economists call "tragedy of the commons". They are public utilities and since everyone follows his personal interest, no one takes any action. That's what happens when people don't draw the connection between public goods and personal welfare.

And yet, when you talk about taking utilities private, so that gives someone some incentive to make them productive, the left is up in arms. It's a vicious cycle, one that can only be broken if people band together. But, we lack that gene. For all this talk about social activism, we still hold very selfish perspectives.

Mosilager said...

PCM - that's great but why can't people from the community get together, collect some money, and do the drainage? why wait for the government? I did not grow up in Kerala so I don't know the social restrictions against doing this but at least those who have lost loved ones or been sick themsselves would be interested in preventing it from happening again. Is there something obvious that I'm missing here?

Blogger Almighty said...

Hi Everyone

I must say, the blog is deteriorating in standard recently.

I think many - seem to have their positions to protect, and people to mock. This is far from constructive criticism.

It may be tempting to laugh at it, somehow this post - was not even of any entertainment value to me.

Let's not forget that the entire world agrees to the high health care standards of kerala. Mocking anything - would be interpreted only as cynic behavior.

I hope you guys are serious about saving kerala.

Laughing at the system - is easy, but changing it , really will require serious effort. Let's not forget it.


PCM said...

Establishing a Drainage System in a town like Alleppey is a huge task. This needs govt. assistance and perhaps foreign aid.
Alleppey has 50 Wards. Small ducts from each house and shop will have to be connected to bigger pipes and all these bigger pipes will need to be connected to a huge pipe, which will be led to a water treatment plant. All the work has to be done underground below roads in all the 50 wards. This has to be a permanent affair involving crores of Rupees. The geography all coastal towns is almost similar and the systems that we have in other sea-level or below sea-level cities as in Norway will have to be replicated with their guidance.

Mosilager said...

pcm - thanks for your reply. I understand the scale of the problem a little better now. Is it possible for some knowledgable residents to get together and draw up a proposal with a budget and so on that can be presented to the city / state authorities as well as foriegn aid donors? Seems like a worthy project.

abhishek said...


We don't mock the situation or the people involved on this blog. It's an issue that affects us personally, but solutions begin with an identification of the problem. And that's what this blog is about.

Blogger, the whole world does not believe that Kerala has high health standards. You can never have high enough standards of health, but there are some things that are not tolerable for a state that claims to be at the forefront of civic hygiene. And that's stagnant pools of sewage and fetid water that serve as perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

PCM might tell you this later on, but he presented a brief report to the civic authorities himself and no action was taken. I think the issue cannot be left to the government. It has to be dealt with by the residents themselves. And that's where you need a public recognition of the health hazards posed by the problems.

Some of my suggestions:
1) Garbage disposal system - proposed by PCM. I have heard Kudumbashree has taken this over in Kozhilandy. But, it involves charging taking garbage
2) Sewer drainage system - a tie up between resident authorities, Norwegian experts and utility corporations to build new pipes. A local initiative to clean up existing drains.

What we need is expert advice on how to set up these systems so that they don't disintegrate over time. That's what this blog is doing - reaching out to our diaspora to figure out these solutions.

PCM said...

This certainly is no laughing matter. The apathy of the politicians and the skill of the officals to reap a harvest from any calamity are, to say the least, 'demoniacal'. Announce huge sums for farmer suicides and chikungunya deaths and then declare that no farmer committed suicide or no one died of chikungunya! If ever some amount is allotted, the officials will see to it that the deserving do not get it! What happened to the Crores of Rupees allotted to Psunami victims?
Well, regarding the long term policies to be implemented to prevent the outbreak of epidemics at least during the coming years, suggestions have been sent to the ministers. If anyone is interested in knowing more about the efforts I have been taking in this connection, they may please visit my blog 'Thoughts on Kerala'

Mind Curry said...

@ mosilager - you have a very valid point..the sad part of the entire governance system is that we have people who have no clue about their assigned portfolios in most positions..such is the system in the political system as well. we have uneducated ministers ruling us and trying to sort things for us. its not very surprising then our health minister could not make head or tail of the deaths in kerala.

@ babin - yeah its really sad..glad your aunt is ok.

@ pcm - Nobody addresses the real problem
thats what the whole post was meant to convey..nobody (especially the people governing us and supposedly responsible for the welfare of the state and its people!)..

good to know you are able to provide such insightful and scientific ideas regarding water-logging..hope someones reading all this..

@ abhishek - i totally agree..thats why i began the whole post saying the public continues to be made a donkey by these vested interests..

@ mosilager - peoples empowerment and decentralization of power etc are just namesake the end the needy and poor remain unfortunate..whether its left or right, congress or communist..

@ blogger almighty - good to know we were atleast high in standard at some point :)

anyway we were not laughing at the situation of the people..but at the dumbheads we, as people, have elected to rule over ourselves..thats definitely laughable..its time the malayali found courage to laugh at himself or herself, and then considered making changes- inside and outside.

i like your profile picture by the way: looks almighty! :)

@ abhishek - kudambashree is doing similar work even in trivandrum..but as you said it involves charging..and again theres a basic flaw in the average keralites mentality..they expect everything free..they are not willing to pay for such things as environment, health, cleanliness etc..i think that has to change a bit. i dont think such things will cost much on an individual basis..if every citizen contributed something like Rs.1 per month, even that would amount to a lot!

and that one rupee will be much more valuable when it saves that life..

Mosilager said...

It's nice to know that somebody's taking initiative, unfortunate that no action was taken on the proposal. How about trying to contact President Kalam? As a scientist, if he takes a personal interest in the matter perhaps something can be done before next year's mosquito onslaught. What is the best way to get the proposal to the public so that there is actually pressure on the elected reps to do something? advertisements in newspapers? articles from journalists?

abhishek said...


i think it will take a concerted effort and i would love to take part.

wonder if we have any experts around on this topic who can help us draft a proposal. i'm going to take a first crack at it anyways.

Mosilager said...

abhishek PCM already has a proposal, we just have to convince aam janta that we can remove a known danger to their relatives by removing mosquito breeding grounds. since our populace is fairly religious, if we can get the religious leaders involved in this they can disseminate the info quite rapidly to the people. "God wants you to remove areas of standing water."

Mind Curry said...

@ mosilager - thats really funny..but i think abhishek and pcm were serious about finding a solution..and i sincerely hope something works. and its really great to see committed individuals like them thinking and trying to find solutions for us.

PCM said...

You and Abhishek have come out with an action plan and it speaks only about your goodheartedness. The greatest difficulty will be in convincing the 'aam janta' and changing their mindset. No orgainized institutions, let alone religion, will get involved in this unless and until they find that it will profit them. Our people have learnt the trick of opposing any constructive suggestions through clever arguments, and that is where we waste our intellignce.

Mosilager said...

mind curry actually i wasn't being flippant for once, I was being serious... I'm not very religious but I know the power that it holds over most malayalees, if we can get those leaders on board then the public will get convinced that they can do something about the mosquito problem. Anyway mosquitoes are only the first step... imagine getting those guys on board for anti-HIV messages.

PCM thanks! it's just a matter of letting people know that they have the power to change the situation... how about the college students? getting some volunteers to go door to door / post flyers / hire an auto with a loudspeaker and roam around Allepy spreading the anti-mosquito message? Won't it be to the advantage of the powerful to be seen as the ones leading the anti-mosquito run? I really respect the work you guys have done / are planning to do.

PCM said...

Thanks for the suggestion. But, I must say that I am sorry for the college students. Now, in Kerala, there are no 'students', but only political wings. Those who come really to study have no voice or initiative. The bodies that represent students function according to the tunes played by the political parties. The genuine students are left in the lurch.

abhishek said...

mosaliger has a point. religious leaders have a big role to play in whatever strategy is formulated to tackle this issue.

Sreeraj Nair said...

The WHO report on Chikungunya says the disease will not cause death. This whole controversy seems to have been created by a scientifically illiterate media in Kerala. This looks like the aftermath of a stupid scoop created by a an ambitious reporter, who did not haved time to check the WHO page on Chikungunya on the Internet. Check this

Mosilager said...

mantra35 - it might indirectly cause death due to suppression of the host immune system, especially in the elderly and youngsters. The chikungunya infection causes days of terrible joint pain. The dengue epidemic is also due to spread of mosquitoes.
There's no reason to allow mosquitoes to spread.

PCM said...

The question is not whether it is chikungunya or it will cause death. By whatever name it is called, every year there are hundreds of deaths by diseases caused by mosquito bite. What we have to do is press for the ways in which mosquitoes can be prevented from proliferation.

Anonymous said...

One of the issue that leads to the current situation is the increasing constructions and the cultivable lands that are left barren. These human activities increases the water logging. Good water harvesting measures by responsible citizens can reduce the drainage problems to a greater extend and also, help us meet the ground water shortage that we face today.

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