Childhood ruined by effluents
Ludhiana, June 7
The Dalit boys — Partap Singh, (14), Pavittar Singh, (10), and Damanpreet Singh, (12) — accidentally stepped on the effluents covered with earth in the playground and got burnt on Tuesday last. One of the boys sustained burn injuries so severe that his rubber slippers got glued to his feet. These had to be removed surgically by a doctor in Amloh.
For the past one week, the poor family is moving from pillar to post for their treatment but due to lack of money they are unable to get proper medicare. They contacted the police station at Amloh where they were allegedly threatened with a counter-case of theft. The victims’ parents were allegedly coerced into signing a compromise agreement, which was not read to them. Scared of being implicated in a false case, the family has fled from the village and are staying in Ludhiana.
As the boys face the danger of developing serious infection, their relatives have knocked at the doors of a local NGO, the Voice for Human Rights, which is moving the Punjab State Human Rights Commission for seeking treatment and action against the guilty. Ms Prabhjot Kaur and Mr Jagjiwan Singh, a couple running the organisation, said they were trying to arrange medical treatment for the victims besides moving court.
Helped by their relatives, Partap and Pavittar were in the district courts complex today where they met a lawyer associated with the NGO. Their feet were covered with rags and they were not able to walk.
Narrating the painful incident, Ms Chhinder Kaur, Partap’s mother and maternal grandmother of Pavittar and Daman, talking to The Tribune said the boys had left the house at 9 a.m. on June 1. After some time, Partap came holding his nephew Pavittar in his arms. Both the boys had burnt their feet. Later Daman also came with burn injuries. The impact of chemical was so much that his rubber slippers were glued to his feet after melting.
‘‘I rushed the boys to the village hospital where the doctors removed the slippers from one of the boys, put an ointment and covered the wounds. I did not have money for the treatment of other boys. So, I bought the ointment from a chemist shop and applied it myself. Now the boys cannot walk and have to be carried by us,” said Ms Chhinder Kaur.
Mr Sada Singh, Chhinder Kaur’s husband, claimed that a mill owner in the area was dumping chemical discharge in the stadium. The effluents were later covered with a layer of earth. He claimed that the boys treaded on this earth while playing.
‘Cocktail of deadly pesticides’ in villagers’ blood
Chandigarh, June 7
The Centre for Science and Enviornment( CSE), a Delhi-based organisation, here today made startling revelations regarding the presence of pesticides in human blood in Punjab. Its director, Ms Sunita Narain, who is a national celebrity in her own right because of the fight she has been waging against certain powerful soft drink multinational companies on the issue of pesticides in their products, said that her team’s study had found a “cocktail of deadly pesticies” in all human blood samples tested by it in Punjab.
As many as 14 samples of blood were drawn for testing from Bathinda district’s Mahi Nangal, Jajjal, and Balloh villages, where pesticides are extensively used. From these villages, a high number of cases of cancer had been reported. Six samples were taken from Dher village, near Anandpur Sahib( Ropar), where the use of pesticides is minimal. Surprisingly, pesticides were found in all samples. These samples had six to 13 different kinds of pesticides which thye CSE called a cocktail of pesticides in human blood”.
What is most worrying is that the level of certain persistent organochlorine pesticides, which are also called old-generation pesticides, in the samples was 15 to 605 times higher than that found in the blood samples of persons in the USA, mentioned by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in its report in 2003. For instance, the level of Lindane, a restricted pesticide in India, was 605 times higher than that found in the US population. Similarly, the level of DDT was 188 times higher.
The presence of organophosphorous pesticides, which are called next-generation pesticides by their manufacturers, was also found equally high. Pesticide manufacturers claim that these pesticides do not persist in the blood because these degrade quickly and are excreted from the body. However, these supposedly “low persistent” pesticides such as monocrotophos were detected in 75 per cent of the blood samples, while chlopyrifos was present in 85 per cent samples. What shocked the study team was that the average level of monocrotophos in Punjab blood samples was 0.095 ppm, which was four times higher than the short-term exposure limit for humans set by the World Health Organisation.
The CSE analysis points out that while blood samples seem to be already contaminated with high levels of older-generation pesticides, new-generation pesticides have now been adding to the body’s burden in the of populace concerned. Ms Narain says that though the harmful effects of these pesticides were known to all, she would not link the use of pesticides to the spread of a particular disease in the areas.