What is the dirtiest city in Gujarat

Plague city of Surat - a year later

One year after the outbreak of the plague, life in Surat, the "city of silk and diamonds" in the western Indian state of Gujarat, is going on with its usual rhythm. Nobody wants to be reminded of the epidemic, from which officially 147 people fell ill and 56 citizens died.

“It was terrible, but everything is back to normal now. The Suraters are busy raking in money. They are too practical to bother with memories of disasters for a long time, ”says Rüpin Pächigarvoh Güjarat's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, summarizing widespread opinions. Those who were not directly affected by it have long since suppressed the memory of the plague.

Normality in Surat, where diamonds are cut and 25,000 meters of silk and rayon are dyed and printed every day in 240 small businesses, means rubbish on the streets, clogged drains and industrial pollution even after the epidemic. Two million people live here on 111.84 km 2. There are 67,000 houses and 300 slums in which 30 percent of the population live, mainly migrant workers from other states. Only 17 percent of households have sewage connections and only 40 percent have drinking water connections. This situation so explained

Harshit Sinha from the Center for Social Studies in Surat, leads to chaos during the rainy season. Then dirt, faeces, industrial waste and animal carcasses mix together to create a “ankle-deep” soup on the streets.

That is why in September 1994 only the ignorant were surprised that Surat became a breeding ground for the plague. In 1992, 100,000 people fell ill with malaria in the “dirtiest city in India”. Dengue fever, stomach and intestinal ailments, infectious hepatitis and typhoid are also part of everyday life in the city during the monsoon season. The new municipal commissioner, S.R., who was appointed after the plague epidemic. Rao, who is supposed to ensure order and cleanliness, is confident and thinks the indifferent attitude of the citizens to the dirt around them has begun to change. The motto "Everything is going well" gives way to a growing sense of responsibility. In any case, Mr Rao senses public un-

Support for the daily disinfection of the particularly critical residential areas carried out by the city administration.

But the confrontation with the dangerous infectious diseases is also slowed down by many arguments. "There is no evidence that it was the plague at all," says Dr Bipin Desai. He leads the front of the? Doubters claim: "All blood and saliva cultures were negative. In no single case has Yersinia pestis (the plague pathogen -HR) been isolated." According to this, the nationwide panic that began after the flight of around 700,000 Suratians ( Interestingly, including 84 percent of all doctors!) broke out in all regions of India and even spread abroad. Dr Desai's statement is held by Dr. BD Parmar of Surat Civic Hospital countered: "It was on September 21st when some of our doctors met and discussed and came to the conclusion that what is going on here is the plague." Apparently Dr Parmar's diagnosis, given by the World Health Organization, was correct and various foreign research institutes - but with one most astonishing caveat: "None of the previous

The world-famous plague bacteria is identical to that of Surat.

Laboratories in Fort Collins (USA) and in Moscow, reported the Indian news agency PTI, determined after genetic analyzes that the Surat bacterium was a new strain of the plague pathogen. He has a gene with a special protein of extraordinary size.

This discovery gave rise to provocative reflections on some Indian doctors and scientists. "Evolution erases genes and doesn't add any," stated Dr. N.P Gupta, former director of the National Institute of Virology in Pune. One of his colleagues added: "Nature could not have built a large gene into the plague microbe all of a sudden, just as humans did not emerge from monkeys overnight." In this context, Indian newspapers pointed out that in various states pest pathogens intensely affect the Suitability as a biological weapon were investigated.

Against this background, many Indians apparently see the appearance of the plague in Surat a year ago as the "import" of a genetically manipulated disease pathogen.

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