Monday, June 23, 2008

Mosquito sting, not Maoist bullet, now kills jawans


A malaria-infected JAP jawan. Pix: Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, June 22: Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) jawans fighting against Naxalites in the forests of the state are faced with a new menace: mosquitoes.

Two jawans — Laloo Gurung and Kumar Subba — died of malaria today, while several are undergoing treatment at JAP hospital, Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) and Apollo.

A doctor treating the jawans at JAP-1 hospital in Doranda, Indramohan Gupta, confirmed the fact, saying that the situation was so far under control.

“We have admitted 15 jawans suffering from malaria in my hospital this month. While three of them were referred to RIMS, six were released after cure. We still have seven cases on our hand,” Gupta added. Sources said two, of the three jawans referred to RIMS, died today.

Constable Rajesh Thakuri, who is undergoing treatment at JAP-1 hospital from June 1, said mosquito and unsafe potable water were turning into bigger challenges than Naxalites for the security personnel.

“We spend nights with mosquitoes. When we return to camp in the morning, we do not get safe water to drink. This multiplies our problem,” he said, adding that he landed in the hospital straight from Saranda forest.

Suresh Thapa, another JAP-1 jawan, recovering from encephalitis, said all of a sudden he had a severe headache and felt giddy while on a search operation in Salgarha forest where the Naxalites are supposed to have hidden Rs 5.11 crore cash looted from the armoured vehicle of ICICI Bank last month. “I tested malaria positive and have been in JAP hospital since June 8.”

Rezi Dungdung, IG, JAP, said the mosquito menace prevailed despite making all preparations to save their jawans from the sting. “We have arranged 5,000 kits to identify malaria and have already distributed them wherever our jawans are deployed.” Another officer said the humid condition in forests during the monsoon aggravated the menace, despite anti-malarial measures being taken up on war footing.

Though suffering, the jawans agrees that they were provided with mosquito nets and cream to protect themselves, but, said constable Sanjay Thapa: “It is difficult to use them during operations in forests.”

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