Even as some pockets hit by a mysterious illness in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district headquarters Eluru are reeling under fear, people elsewhere in the town or visitors are not bothered about the malady and are carrying on with their normal lives.
Conversations with a cross-section of people – both local residents and visitors – in Eluru revealed that life goes on come what may.
Madhu, 33, a third-generation entrepreneur who runs the nearly 100-year-old Appalaraju hotel famous for non-vegetarian delicacies, said personally he was not scared of the situation but he sees fear in the eyes of his customers.
“There is a lot of fear. Most of our customers are outstation customers. Since four days, very few people are coming to eat out,” Madhu told IANS.
He said people are suspecting water or milk for the outbreak.
“Some are saying water pollution, some are saying milk. So many theories are gaining currency,” he said.
Privileged to use packaged drinking water, Madhu is not worried and highlighted that there is no point in getting scared.
Mini Ram Babu, 36, a flower seller at Eluru fire station centre, had no clue what the mysterious illness was all about.
“I don’t know what it is. If somebody has to die, they will die. This is the season for us to work. After 10 days, I have to be idle again for another 100 days,” said Babu, who strings garlands as well for a living.
More than the mysterious illness, he was worried about his debts and interest. He claimed death is better than the daily headaches of life.
Being the district headquarters, Eluru sees many visitors for various works, and Thursday was like any other.
Vijaya Babu, 48, came to the town from Chintalapudi on an errand and said there is no need to be worried.
“I am not a local. People are not that scared, everything is fine. I came from Chintalapudi. They are saying it is because of water problem,” he said.
Nagesh, a 23-year-old fruit vendor near the police parade ground, asked what is there to fear about.
“We don’t know what will happen at any given point of time,” said Nagesh, exuding a come what may attitude.
Another non-local, Rajesh from Razole in East Godavari district said he saw people fainting on television. However, he took care not to drink water in the town and bought packaged drinking water.
Meanwhile, all the people in the affected pockets of JP Colony, Dakshinaveedi, Kothapet and others remain in a state of panic.
After 4-5 days of horrific scenes of people collapsing with epileptic seizures, frothing at the mouth and fainting, the situation has come under control to a great extent. On Thursday, only 16 new cases were reported.
Mostly, business was as usual in the town on Thursday, everybody going about with their work. All shops and businesses were open and transacted business.
Officials are yet to reach a conclusion on the cause of Eluru’s mysterious illness but suspect that lead or pesticide organochlorine or a combination of both might have caused the outbreak.
Eluru, which is 58 km northeast of Vijayawada, is a coastal paddy cultivation and aquaculture hub.