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Pollution board to issue notices
Dumping of fly ash in playground
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

A team of Punjab Pollution Control Board officials collects samples of fly ash dumped in Chehlan village stadium on Wednesday.
A team of Punjab Pollution Control Board officials collects samples of fly ash dumped in Chehlan village stadium on Wednesday. — Photo by Inderjit Verma

Chehlan (Fatehgarh Sahib), June 8
Taking a serious note of the plight of three minor Dalit boys who had burnt their feet by stepping on a fly ash dump in a playground in this village, the Punjab Pollution Control Board, (PPCB), has decided to issue notices to mills in the vicinity for dumping fly ash allegedly in violation of the norms.

Meanwhile, a visit to this village by a Tribune team revealed that the issue was a major problem as a number of other villagers, including young girls and aged men, had also suffered burn injuries when they accidentally stepped on the fly ash. The fly ash was often blown all around the village whenever winds blew in east or south-east direction. But sadly, the villages seemed to be more concerned about petty political gains and losses than the condition of the children.

The PPCB experts who visited the site, however, were surprised to find that the fly ash that had been dumped was still quite hot. The village panchayat, however, kept on claiming that it had given permission for dumping the fly ash but did not know the person or the industry to which the permission had been granted. The panchayat had just given verbal permission, claimed panchayat members.

Mr Malwinder Singh, Member Secretary of the board, while talking to TNS over phone, said they would issue notices to the mills seeking details about their fly ash disposal system. The condition of fly ash hinted that the required norms to dump it were not being followed by the mill concerned. He said the board would also see under what rules the village panchayat had allowed the dumping.

There was a sharp division between the villagers who arrayed along different lines. The real purpose of allowing the dump remained a mystery. Panchayat claimed that it had allowed the dumping in order to raise the level of the playground and also to fill up low lying areas in it.

Interestingly, the panchayat had received a grant of several thousands of rupees way back in 1982 for the construction of the stadium. The sarpanch, Ms Ranjit Kaur, and other member of the panchayat admitted that some grant had been received but had no idea about how it had been used. They also had no explanation about why the playground was being used as a dumping site.

A team of Amloh police and another of PPCB officials from Patiala reached the village in the morning and took samples of the hot fly ash. They said the fly ash appeared to be either from a sugar mill or a rice sheller.

Led by Dr Babu Ram, Superintending Engineer, PPCB, the team comprising, Mr Kunesh Garg, engineer and Mr Avtar Singh, SDO, said villagers had shown gross negligence by burning the weeds some days ago which could have raised the temperature of the dumped fly ash. The panchayat had neither put up a warning board nor had made any effort to cool the ash that had become a cause of injuries to many. The village panchayat, however, claimed that it had been making announcements in this regard from the village gurdwara for the past few days.

Ms Kamaljit Kaur, an elderly woman of the village, said she had also burnt her feet in the stadium some days ago and had cured herself by applying Burnol. Bipanjit Kaur, a 12-year-old girl, said she had also sustained burn injuries due to the ash.

Villagers said legs of a bull had also been burnt after the animal entered the ash. “It kept bellowing in pain for many days after getting burnt. We complained to the panchayat but to no avail. The village watchmen also suffered burns”, said Mr Satnam Singh, a member of the village panchayat.


Scorching apathy

Petty politics is ruling the roost in this village as no attention is being paid to the plight of three children of this village, who had received grievous burn injuries due to fly ash dumped in the playground of the village.

On the day of incident, the father of the children kept on requesting the village panchayat for nine hours to arrange treatment for Partap Singh, Pavittar Singh and Damanpreet Singh, but panchayat members allegedly did not listen to him and kept on asking him to explain why the children had gone to the stadium.

“The boys kept crying loudly for so many hours as they had developed blisters on their feet. Their heart rending cries had no effect on the villagers as none of them came to see them even once,” said Ms Gurdev Kaur, a relative of victims who was visiting them.

It was only after seeking help from many people that Sada Singh finally went to the hospital himself. He requested the doctors to provide them treatment free of cost. “Only we know how we have managed to get treatment for the children with burns for the past one week. They are not able to walk or stand due to the injuries. And only we know how we bore their pain,” said Sada Singh.

Even today the villagers were not bothered to talk about the treatment of the boys. Refusing outrightly to help them, the villagers said they were mischief mongers and had no reason to visit the stadium that day while their father claimed that they had gone to bring grass for the cattle. The villagers, however, were more perturbed about the fact that the victims’ mother had abused the village panchayat for allowing the dumping of fly ash.

Some villagers were even seen fighting with the mediapersons for the news reports published in newspapers while some others were taking a dig at a team of PPCB officials claiming that the village panchayat had every right to allow the use of stadium as a dump as they were planning to develop it with their limited means.


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