September 16, 2000,
Dropsy claims three lives
PATIALA, Sept 15 — Dropsy has broken out in Malerkotla town in Sangrur district, claiming three lives and creating paralytical symptoms in four others following consumption of mustard oil contaminated with argimone seeds, by a family.
The dropsy cases surfaced on September 9 with the extended family of Rudi, a Muslim of Bhunsi Mohalla in Malerkotla, reporting paralytic symptoms. Following this, 18-year-old Anwari expired after being taken to Dayanand Medical College in Ludhiana immediately afterwards. Two other women, Bashira and Aiesha, expired 10 days back. Four other family members are undergoing treatment in Government Rajindra Hospital here.
The Sangrur Civil Surgeon’s office took samples of mustard seeds and oil from the residence of the affected persons only two days back. The surgeon Dr C.P. Bansal, said the samples had been sent to Chandigarh Chemical Examination Laboratory.
Unofficial testing of samples collected by post-graduate students of Government Rajindra hospital here from Malerkotla a few days back has revealed the presence of argimone in the mustard oil consumed by the family. Rajindra Hospital Medical Superintendent A.S. Sekhon said the Sangrur Civil Surgeon had been told about the dropsy cases reported in the hospital and had been asked to collect samples and make a notification in this regard.
According to a Union Government notification on dropsy, all mustard oil stock in a particular area should be seized immediately after a dropsy case is reported and samples taken for test. The notification of August, 1998, also makes it clear that mustard and argimone seeds cannot be accidentally mixed in the field. The notification says, ‘’Argimone seeds are quite distinct from mustard seeds. Mustard is harvested earlier than that of argimone and that there is no possibility of accidental mixing of argimone seeds with mustard seeds leading to accidental adulteration ‘’.
Though this makes it clear that the mustard seeds grown by the family of Rudi, which were taken for extraction to a local ‘kohlu’ could not have contained argimone seeds , the district administration has not done anything to check various oil extraction units in the town. It has also not undertaken any survey of the health of other persons living near the affected family even though their relatives who had come to the hospital here said they used to share food with others.
The Sangrur Civil Surgeon, Dr C. P. Bansal said he had given directions to the Senior Medical Officer to check all oil extracting units in Malerkotla. He added that till now, samples of mustard seed and oil had been taken only from Ruldu’s house. He said the samples could not be taken today as the medical team of the district was busy in checking the samples of the food to be partaken by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal who is on a campaign tour of Sunam.
The Civil Surgeon said though he had been unofficially informed that a sample of the oil had revealed presence of argimone, he would take action in the matter after getting a report of the sample sent to the Chandigarh laboratory. He said he was not aware of the Government of India directions with regard to seizing of mustard oil wherever dropsy broke out.
Meanwhile Anwar, who along with his grandfather
Rudi, father Mohammad Ramzan and sister Nazma is admitted in the hospital here, told TNS that they had got oil extracted from the mustard seeds grown by them in their land. He said all family members were suffering from extreme pain in their legs and joints. He said the seed stock could not be corrupted as the same stock was being sowed year after year for the past 15 years.
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