The combing operation to nab Aedes mosquito at its larvae stage can very well be described as scenes from dystopian fiction. Then again, citizens are not machines farming insects for their sustenance, and the government is not an oppositional category. In a fight against mosquitoes, citizens and the city fathers should act as a family, and address the issue from a collective platform.
The TV scroll is snaking a mayoral hiss of applying penal code against those who will fail to cooperate in the ongoing combing operation. It makes me reflect on an incident involving a family acquaintance in Gulshan-1.
A mobile court accompanied by the police force raided the house in search of Aedes larvae. The building had a card system for its lift. The caretaker had already taken a group of police personnel to the rooftop garden, before the arrival of the magistrate from an adjacent building. The guard downstairs could not give him access to the lift as the key was with the caretaker who had gone upstairs. The magistrate had to take the stairs, and was furious over his four-flights foray. He instantly told the police to arrest the caretaker, and release him only after the sunset.
The owners of the house had gone to hajj, and the kids didn’t know what to do. They asked one uncle to talk to police, but in vain. The caretaker was handcuffed and driven all around Gulshan for the rest of the day in a police van. He was not shown arrested or detained!
Then in the evening the patrol police came and asked the kids for “some money”. The kids didn’t have any. Their uncle managed to drop the name of a minister over the phone to get the caretaker released.
I am sure the police will have another version of the story. I shall not go into the right wrong diatribe. But this mosquito drive has given our already corrupt system one more avenue to extort money through terrorising others, not to mention to expose ordinary citizens ( children and housewives who do not have to negotiate with bribery or the dark economy on a daily basis) to the brutal face of a humane effort.
The authority must understand the difference between an awareness programme and an intervention. Aedes mosquitoes are not hidden terrorists who have been given shelters by the residents. There can be callousness, negligence or even ignorance on the part of the residents -- but for that we need to involve the community leaders, local imams, or housing societies. The government must not exhaust its security resources in mosquito hunting in people’s verandas and rooftops. They can bring army aircrafts to spray medicine over the huge construction projects of metro rail and overpasses, canals and ditches, parks and rooftops if needed, but they cannot send uniformed men to people’s homes.
When we were growing up, the city corporation used to have mosquito-controllers entering every house to spray the drains, bushes and alleys. Our tax has increased, service hasn’t!
The fight against mosquitoes cannot be fought alone. We are already afraid of mosquitoes; we do not want to be afraid of mosquito hunters. The government can help us by reducing the price of mosquito repellents, kits, insecticides or mosquito nets. They can involve business owners to distribute them as CSR gestures, and equip the citizens with the necessary weapons.
Dear Mr Mayor, don’t alienate yourself by bulldozing into people’s houses. Hold your cannons; for tiny mosquitoes you need a subtler weapon!
The writer is Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh