Having failed to spray larvicide on time and then to diagnose and treat the hundreds afflicted with dengue, both the health department of the West Bengal government and the municipal authorities would appear to have thrown in the towel.

Both are now reportedly looking forward to a change of weather ~ to a cooler clime, more accurately ~ to get rid of the mosquitoes that spread the virus. The dependance on nature is suggestive of the failure of man and medicine.

The death of three pregnant women, afflicted with dengue, has lent a heart-rending dimension to the potentially mortal fever. Yet another patient is reported to be battling coma after having given birth to a still-born child in one of Kolkata’s leading private hospitals. In the context of the calculated dumbing down, the only ray of hope emanates from Calcutta High Court and Raj Bhavan. It was a double whammy on a single day. The fact that these two pillars of democracy have had to intervene yet again underscores the enormity of the tragedy in the realm of public health.

And no parallel need be drawn between Keshari Nath Tripathi’s caveat on the dengue outbreak and the one on the communal flare-up in Basirhat.

The two are radically different issues, though the common strand must be that it is the constitutional prerogative of a Governor to react to matters of governance. And Tripathi’s statement recalls Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s robust intervention after CPI-M cadres (masquerading as the police) fired in Nandigram (Phase I, March 2007).

“I am bound by oath,” was his stark reminder to Alimuddin Street. Whether or not Mr Tripathi’s letter to the government has punctured egos at Nabanna, the subtext of the communication makes it clear that the Governor does not quite agree with the Chief Minister’s delusory belief that the “situation is under control and there is no need to panic”.

The Governor has called for both treatment and prevention; both have been in short supply for the past three months. The affliction has assumed endemic proportions in the state, and blaming the private diagnostic centres has served to make confusion worse confounded. Overall, the callous indifference of the health department and the negligent nonchalance of the municipalities have driven patients quicker to death than to a scintilla of treatment.

Of a piece with the gubernatorial intervention is the Calcutta High Court directive to the government, seeking a report on the critical parameters of the crisis ~ the number affected, the updated death toll, the administration’s response and no less crucially whether the state government has been complying with the national guidelines on dengue management.

The high-minded lament of the acting Chief Justice, Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, that “the state is yet to decide whether the disease is dengue” is a succinct summing up of a bumbling administration’s sick parade. For sometime yet, the stillborn child will be emblematic of the sclerosis that plagues public health.