When flying Tigers were downed, we thought we would be able to have a good night`s sleep free from rude shocks from crude aerial bombs and stray tracer bullets. Free as we are from those dangers now, peace of mind remains a luxury we cannot still afford. For, the winged terror continues to trouble us in a different yet insidious form. Mossies are on the warpath in many parts of the country, especially the Colombo city and its suburbs spreading as they do much dreaded dengue.
Health authorities have suddenly woken up to the need for adopting preventive measures in battling dengue and are frantically conducting anti-dengue campaigns exactly the way we used to launch much advertised yet ineffective ad hoc military offensives against terrorism some years ago. The eradication of dengue consists in a sustained campaign to eliminate mosquito breeding places.
The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has adopted a novel method of neutralising the threat of dengue. It is conducting bodhi pooja. Invoking blessings of the Enlightened One and deities at times of crisis is something usual in this country. According to Buddhist commentaries, Buddha himself recited Ratana Sutta (or the Jewel Discourse) in the City of Vesali in the throes of three fears a famine, a pestilence and evil spirits and delivered people from their suffering. The tradition continues.
But, we reckon, health authorities, city (step) fathers and politicos struggling to control dengue must concentrate more on Singalovada Sutta (Layperson`s Code of Discipline) than Bodhi pooja or Ratana Sutta. For, the high incidence of that disease is the outcome of their dereliction of duty and idleness. The Buddha pointed out in Singalovada Sutta, inter alia, six pernicious consequences of faineance: One does not work claiming it is extremely cold it is extremely hot it is too late in the evening it is too early in the morning one is extremely hungry and one is too full. The downfall of such a person, the Buddha said, was inevitable. That may explain why the city fathers et al have failed so pathetically to keep the city clean and why we are in this predicament.
Colombo`s dilapidated underground sewage and drainage systems are sufficient to produce mosquitoes for the entire SAARC region! No amount of fumigation or spraying is going to rid us of the mosquito menace so long as those breeding places remain intact. (It was reported a few years ago that Cuba had offered to assist us in the fight against mosquitoes. What has the government done about it?) Ironically, PHIs are in the overdrive mode looking for coconut shells in ratepayers` gardens and slapping huge fines. That must be done alright: The blame for mosquito breeding must be apportioned to the public with a generous hand but first of all the city administrators and public health officers must put their house in order. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards?
There is another danger Colombo is faced with. Rats are going to achieve what Tigers failed to. Soon, they will take over the city, whose sewers and drains in a state of disrepair are home to huge colonies of rats of all sorts. We will be lucky if we don`t have an outbreak of Black Death one of these days.
Armies of idling municipal workers doing precious little for the salaries they draw and their failed bureaucratic and political bosses deserve to be lined up and horsewhipped!