The Calcutta High Court today directed the West Bengal government to declare dengue a 'notified disease' and issue a gazette notification to this effect. In an interim order, a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice J Bhattacharya and Justice Arijit Banerjee ordered the state government to disclose the steps taken by it to control vector-borne diseases. The bench said the PILs regarding the spread of dengue and deaths of people were maintainable, and it directed the West Bengal government to declare dengue a 'notified disease' and issue a gazette notification to that effect. The bench also asked the government to ensure that mobile medical vans were dispatched to remote areas where proper healthcare facilities to treat the disease were not available. For the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Kaushik Chanda had told the court during the last hearing on November 25 that the state government has failed to issue a gazette notification declaring dengue a notified disease despite prodding from the Union government. "If the disease is notified, all state-run and private hospitals would be bound to report the number of dengue patients and deaths everyday to the state headquarters so that the exact numbers could be received," Chanda had submitted before the court. At least 10 other states have notified the disease, he said. Alleging that central funds meant for controlling vector- borne diseases were unused by the state government in 2016-17 and 2017-18, Chanda had claimed that the state did not provide any report to the Centre on the number of people affected by the disease and deaths since October 4 when the guideline was to send daily reports during the outbreak season. The bench had, during the last hearing, said that dengue occurs every year despite the state's claim that it was adhering to the guidelines of the central government and WHO to control it. "This shows that more steps need to be taken as these seem to be inadequate to control the disease in West Bengal," the bench had observed. State Advocate General Kishore Dutta had questioned the maintainability of the PILs claiming that these were politically motivated petitions, based on newspaper reports only, and there was no research conducted by the petitioners before moving court. The state government had told the court on November 16 that 38 people died of dengue in West Bengal, of whom 23 died in state-run hospitals and 15 in private facilities, even as some media reports claimed that the figure was higher. The state was verifying 22 other cases of dengue deaths reported by various private hospitals, Dutta had told the division bench. He had also said that around 21,000 people were affected. The bench today directed the state government to file affidavit delineating steps taken in accordance with the order within one week after the winter vacation and the petitioners might file their affidavits in opposition following that. The PILs would be heard by the court again in February.
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