Doctors, public health officials, Shimla Municipal Corporation and water supply agencies are struggling to contain the spread of jaundice in the city here, but exotic and exorcist treatments for the epidemic are having a field day as is the demand and sale of cane juice and bottled water rising.
In the background, the usual blame game goes on.
First citizen and Mayor Sanjay Chauhan has slapped a criminal case on the government for feeding the city with sewage contaminated water, a water supply scheme considered responsible for the disease spread has been temporarily disbanded, hospitals are reporting 50 to 100 new cases of jaundice daily, union health minister JP Nadda has sent a team up hill to find out the cause of the epidemic, the local media reported a woman dying of jaundice, chief minister Virbhadra Singh promptly refuted that it was not a death by jaundice, the city magistrate has banned sale of humble Gol Guppa and other street foods, a recent CM cabinet meeting approved many issues related to the state’s health systems but ignored the jaundice epidemic, abdicating its governance authority to the high court which has taken cognizance of the disease spread and is monitoring the issue. Treating doctors have been gagged from speaking to the media and to assist the court, the government has constituted a special investigation team, all for finding the cause and containing the spread of this communicable disease.
In all the noise about who is to be blamed, how the epidemic broke out, who is accountable, why jaundice breaks out regularly and where/how to treat, there is a silver lining in all this city living gloom.
Mercifully there are jaundice specialist exorcists living in the city who are believed to rid patients of the paleness and yellowness that besets a victim hit by the disease.
The queues outside Jagat Ram’s exorcist clinic in Bamloe are getting longer by the day. Men, women, children, commoners, the affluent and even doctors, some of whom are specialists in their respective fields, have been sighted at such clinics waiting for the curious and supernatural treatment of the disease.
The queer treatment meted out is said to held on the belief that the devil gets to possess the human’s liver which turns the body pale and yellow and weakens the victim as his hold over the being spreads. The exorcist by using his supernatural powers, which includes humming of silent mantra, exorcises the evil spirit. The paleness slowly begins to subside and the possessed starts to recover from the disease.
Like capsicum patented as Shimla Mirch, the exorcist treatment for Shimla jaundice awaits a new patent. Many swear by it to having cured them.
Barring leaders of political parties, the pale devil disease spread has spared no other section.
No, not just the poor man who is forced to gather water from untreated sources, but an IAS officer, doctors, engineers, well paid government employees, academicians and others, all have fallen victim to the disease this season.
Jaundice outbreaks blamed on supply of contaminated water are a regular feature in Shimla. Varying from a mild to a severe outbreak, the disease is reported practically every year and takes on epidemic proportions on an average once in three years.
The courts, the government and the municipality have failed to find a remedy to it and everybody has come to terms with it as a residential hazard of living in Shimla.
Being assured that sooner or later there will be a jaundice outbreak in the city, small time street food vendors have shifted to fresh cane juice extraction and sale businesses.
It was only a seasonal business spotted during earlier jaundice outbreaks but the frequency and regularity of the disease has made it into a year round viable business for about half a dozen vendors in the city. Most of these roadside mobile sugarcane crushers used to be concentrated around the localities of Vikasnagar, Mehli & Pantaghatti but it being a big season this time, new ones are said to be stationed in other localities as the demand for fresh cane juice is peaking.
The exorcists and treating doctors recommend fresh cane juice and these small time entrepreneurs are doing brisk these days. Their roadside stalls are certainly not hygienic, but patients have to cope up with it for sugarcane is not grown locally and the supplies from Chandigarh are increasing as the number of jaundice patients crossed the 1000 mark for the winter.
Water filter sales that would tend to increase with every jaundice outbreak, has not been so this time because it is not just the commoner but even affluent sections of society who only drink high end, high quality filtered water have fallen victim to the spreading epidemic.
At one earlier outbreak leading water filter brand Aqua Guard had even taken out a street awareness rally highlighting that those who use their filters were safe from jaundice infections. No such awareness campaigns have been seen this time around.
Where reliability of water filters in ensuring safe drinking water has not been disputed yet, but demand for bottled water has shot up.
As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post.
Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.