Tag Archives: Poverty

Cancer Bathinda’s dubious distinction

The crowd waiting to board train no 339 from Bathinda Railway Junction shares more than the overnight journey to Bikaner (Rajasthan), its passengers are bound together by the misery of cancer and the hope of getting cured. “I see close to a hundred people boarding the train every night…What else can be done, there is no hospital for nearly 150 km and every street has patients,” says Vicky Kumar who runs a tea stall at the station. “It’s like a curse on the region, not a personal plight,” he added.

A family of five, from village Gehri Bhagi, 10 km from here, wait at the station to take their 17-year-old son to Bikaner. “We don’t know why he got cancer in the food pipe, he takes no tobacco, no alcohol. But there have been over 15 cases in the last year in our village,” his mother breaks down while speaking about her son’s illness.

Home to a million people, Bathinda boasts a thermal power plant, two coal power plants, a fertilizer plant, and a large oil refinery, and countless cancer patients. The latest data from the health department puts the number of patients in Malwa region at 120-125 per lakh against 71, which is the national average. The department states that there is a jump of 80 per cent in the number of cases from the region in 2010 compared to 2009.

“There have been over 90 deaths in the last 15 years in my village. There is a cancer patient in every house, every family; but no medical facility. Six years ago, they started making a cancer hospital, but that is a private hospital, they charge Rs. 500 just to enter the gate, the ticket to Bikaner is Rs. 34,” said Daljeet Singh (52) of village Jajjal, 30 km from here. The nearest medical facility is at Ludhiana (164 km) or Chandigarh (210 km), which has made Bikaner the medical centre for Malwa’s cancer patients. A super-specialty cancer and cardiac care hospital being set up here by the Max Healthcare Institute Limited under public-private-partnership (PPP) has failed to meet its deadline, April 2011. The Punjab government has given 4.8 acres of land of the local civil hospital to the Max Healthcare at an annual rent of Re. one for 50 years. However, details of treatment for poor cancer patients are not finalised yet. Only 50 beds had been kept for cancer patients in the proposed hospital, and Max Healthcare would give a part of its earning to the Punjab government to fund the treatment of poor cancer patients.

A 2007 epidemiological study, known as the PPCB-PGIMER Report, found that Bathinda surface waters are contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, chromium, selenium and mercury. The waste water generated from industry “is drained mostly partially or untreated in the local drains, which had led to the pollution of these drains.” Pesticides such as heptachlor, ethion and chlorpyrifos were also higher in samples of drinking water, vegetables and blood in the cotton belt of Punjab. The study also found DNA mutations in 65 per cent of the blood samples, taken from over 5,000 randomly selected people. Despite the high positive correlation between cancer cases and modern farming methods and industrialisation, government-funded institutions report indecisive conclusions. “The research does not prove that pesticides were the culprit…it is important to remember something about health studies in general: They are difficult to carry out…it would take many more years to demonstrate whether pesticides actually triggered the elevated cancer rates they found in some farming areas. Farmers have improved their standard of living, they have smoked more tobacco and changed to unhealthy diets. Or a combination of all those factors, including pesticides, might have driven cancer rates higher,” one study states.

“Officials will deny the link to industry and green revolution; but farmers are encouraged to use excessive pesticides instead of farming organically. Crops that are not conducive to the soil and water are being produced by farmers who wear no protective layer while spraying toxic chemicals. Villagers use empty containers of pesticides for storing of most of the food items, still we treat the rise in cases of cancer as a medical mystery,” asked Umendra Dutta of Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM). “Not just cancer, the mindless toxic farming and industrial pollution has led to high rates of spontaneous abortions, cancer, reproductive aliments, genetic deformities, anaemia, diarrhoea, vomiting, fluorosis and a host of skin ailments including rashes and boils,” he added.

“Some people came and took our blood samples, vegetables and milk samples; but no one told us what is wrong. Poor farmers have to go through treatment that they can barely afford, young couples are migrating so that their children are not affected,” said a 37-year-old woman, in Gayana, 15 km from here, whose son and daughter-in-law moved to Hoshiarpur after she lost her husband to throat cancer and her nephew to stomach cancer .

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the vulture Culture, when blood becomes the ink

I never thought i could see some one cry with dry eyes. Her eyes were dry casue they were replaying the scene when her 17 yr old was trying to make an extra buck, his fault- what he thought was metal came out to be an unexploded live shell.

While the 17 yrs old dies on the spot wiht this 14 yr old friend, both of whom found the shell while bathing in the river which ran next to their colony/skum(u choose the term), their mothers were as quiet as the blood stains al over the walls of the area.

Dead bodies are never pleasant, neither are injuries but still Police gave the emotionless quotes explaining what we all saw, residents walked in shock and journalists- well they had something more to do. Most wanted to click the pool of blood, while flies were on it, not flying. Many were feeling frustrated that the bodies were taken just before they arrieved. Many compared this blast to anoher blast where they could capture the dead body’s limbs in an order that provoked pain and puke. Few were disappointed on the fact that the families were not crying enuf, and when one female member started to beat her chest, they all lept to capture it.

There were few who pushed the camera to the lady whose neighbours had lost their sons and asked her to detail what she saw, wht she thought and wht did she do. After 5 min there was que to take a shot of the lady becasue she was hapy to pose wiht the blood stains, the shop where the havoc happened and the slippers which still had signs of the ppl who once wore it.

While the police blame the explosion on the shell a 60 yr oldl, who has been living in the Dhakka Basti of the Azad Colony where the blast occurred, said that the children died of poverty, “The blast took place because the children were trying to extract copper from a bomb in the shop. They were not educated enough to know that it was a bomb and hungry enough to hit it with a heavy rock.”

the distant attitude of the police, i understand. the shocked neighbours i understand even those who were posing, but US, i am not sure.

As we counted the dead and the injured a senior walked upto me and told me not to get disturbed, he dint say any more. because at some level the more pain we see, the more we write. Does blood fuel our ink?

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Brides purchased, then exploited in Haryana, Punjab

Decades of unchecked sex-selective abortions have made the once fertile States of Punjab and Haryana suffer a drought of brides, making human-trafficking a lucrative and expanding trade. Often projected as a voluntary marriage, every year, thousands of young women and girls are lured into the idea of a happy married life with a rich man in Punjab or Haryana. Sadly most ‘purchased brides’ are exploited, denied basic rights, duplicated as maids, and eventually abandoned.

Only solution

With skewed sex ratios (Punjab-893, Haryana-877 females per 1,000 males) it is impossible to find a bride for each man, and ‘importing a bride’ has become the only solution. Also, with the tradition of not marrying within the same village and eligible girls marrying the wealthiest suitor, often NRIs, the majority of men in villages are left unmarried and often addicted to drugs.

“What is wrong in marrying a poor girl? I demanded no dowry, rather her family’s social and economic position has improved,” said an agitated Prakash Singh of Harsola village in Kaithal (Haryana), when asked why he married a 19-year-old girl hailing from a poor village from Assam. Interestingly, Mr. Singh has three brothers and no sister; he does not believe that there is any dearth of women in his village.

“There were no eligible girls in our village or social circle. After my son turned 35, we realised that unless we accept a non-Punjabi girl he would never be married and no one would carry the family name forward; so we had to make arrangements,” said Mahinder Singh, an elderly man in Pohlo Majra, Fatehgarh Sahib (Punjab). The migration might seem to be a measure to correct the gender imbalance, but the ultimate goal is producing sons.

“Marriage to an imported bride makes caste, language and culture immaterial as long as the price is paid to the girl’s family and a male child is born. Depending on the age, looks and virginity of a girl, grooms pay anywhere from Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 300,000,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, a non-governmental organisation working on the issue.

The obvious need gives the practice a social sanction and makes it look like a social service: Sushma Kaur of Pohlo Majra, who married a Sikh man 15 years elder to her, calls it a ‘blessing.’ “My uncle arranged the match, it was difficult in the beginning because of the new language and the culture, but my husband took care of me…My village in Bengal has an excess of females and no one to care for them, and it is a great service if I can arrange a matrimonial match. Ever since I got married, 10 years ago, over a dozen girls have followed me from Bengal,” she says with pride. She added that none of the girls were ill-treated; however, it was not unheard of.

A field study on the impact of sex ratio on the pattern of marriages in Haryana by Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra covering over 10,000 households, revealed that over 9,000 married women in Haryana were bought from other States. The study which covered 92 villages of Mahendragarh, Sirsa, Karnal, Sonepat, and Mewat districts said that most of the people accepted it as a common practice, but denied having bought a bride in their family.

Most untraceable

“In every village there are over 50 girls that have been bought; some of them as young as 13 and a very small percentage of the ‘sold for marriage’ women are found to be living a married life. Most are untraceable or exploited or duplicated as domestic servants by the agents or men who marry/buy them. There are also instances of girls being resold to other persons after living a married life for a few years,” the study added.

Most of them come from poverty-ridden villages of Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa, because their families need money; and despite the prevalence of the dowry system in the north Indian states, men are ready to pay for a wife.

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declining sex ratio forces ‘import’ of brides

CHANDIGARH: Declining sex ratios have compelled farmers of Punjab to “import” brides from states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh leading to large-scale trafficking of women in the State. Usually, the girls are between 12 and 17 years of age.

“There isn’t any choice. Either you buy a bride or remain a bachelor who has no sons to inherit his property,” says Malkeet Singh (27) of Fatehgarh Sahib district. Scarcity of marriageable girls in his village, 40 km from here, compelled him to shop for a bride. He followed in the footsteps of his uncles and paid Rs.25,000 for his wife from a poverty-ridden village in Bihar.

According to the 2001 census, Punjab has a sex ratio of 793 girls for 1,000 boys. Fatehgarh Sahib has the country’s worst sex ratio of 754 girls for 1,000 boys (0-6 age bracket).

“Decades of sex-determination tests followed by female foeticide have resulted in an even more shameful sociological phenomenon wherein women have been reduced to son-producing machines. Women who fail to produce sons are sent back, sold or abandoned,” says Manvinder Kaur, Reader at the Centre for Women Studies, Punjab University.

No data is available on the number of girls trafficked into Punjab, but every village has a number of “bought brides”.

The trade is being carried on by the second and third generation victims. Malkeet’s aunt, Kusum Devi, also from Bihar, managed his alliance. “Marrying their daughters is a relief for the families, especially when they receive money instead of having to pay a dowry.”

According to Ameer Sultana of the Centre for women Studies at Punjab University: “Girls who are bought from poor homes are never considered equal. They have no rights and even after many years she knows that she is a commodity, which is used and often shared by all the men in the family.”

According to Ms. Kaur, “The females trafficked into this region will not correct the sex ratio as they are meant to produce only males. Education is not a solution as most of the foeticide cases reported are of educated women. We need a massive drive to make people aware of the ground realities because both tradition and technology have started to favour female foeticide. Going by the rate at which girls are going missing from Punjab and Haryana they would be a rare sight soon.”

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