Hassan: Holding on
The Banavara primary health centre ( phc ) in district Hassan, Karnataka, recorded 8,028 malaria cases in 1995. Reason: the high percentage of migrant labourers from Andhra Pradesh who work as stone cutters in the Chikkur railway line conversion project. In 1995, the mrc expanded its work in Kanakatte and Banavara phc s. Hassan is relatively well-off in economic terms. Its coconut farmers have a good income and are both aware and educated. Yet the incidence of malaria is severe, with the mrc team pinpointing the major source as disused wells and migrant labourers.
"Health is a totally neglected sector in today's government policies,' says Ghosh of mrc , Bangalore. "The government has not understood that liberalisation and progress of the state cannot be undertaken without proper health measures,' he indicates. Helpless about the situation regarding migratory labour, the mrc team attempted to get rid of mosquitoes by applying alternative methods of control in the waterbodies. Beginning with Kanakatte's 52 villages in January 1996, fishes were introduced in 38 villages, a combination of fishes and impregnated bednets in seven villages and only bednets in seven additional villages. Within a year, malaria cases declined conclusively.
As a result of introducing fishes in all 108 villages in Banavara, the monthly parasite index dropped from 38.5 per cent in 1995 to 8.6 per cent in 1996 and further to 1.5 in 1997. Of the 108 villages, 10 were selected for their numerous waterbodies to be taken under the "fish and biocide' scheme. Biocide trials began in January 1997. Ghosh feels it is premature to make any statement on this trial yet.
So what will happen once the mrc phases out the bioenvironmental control methods from Kolar and Hassan districts? Ghosh fears that the 10 people trained by the mrc, Bangalore, in all aspects of malaria control will either lose their jobs or will be put into other departments where their expertise will get dissipated. What happens in Hassan needs to be seen. Clearly, the fate of bioenvironmental control rests wholly on the initiative of state health officials.