Hepatitis-affected village fails to draw authorities’ attention

Babu Singh, Surjit Singh, Malkit Singh, brothers Angrej Singh and Harnek Singh of Ghagga village in Gidderbaha sub-division have reportedly died due to hepatitis-B, C.

editorial@tribune.com

Archit Watts

Tribune News Service

Ghagga (Gidderbaha), Dec 14

Babu Singh, Surjit Singh, Malkit Singh, brothers Angrej Singh and Harnek Singh of Ghagga village in Gidderbaha sub-division have reportedly died due to hepatitis-B, C. Scores of others residing here too suffer from this disease. Besides, children and youth developing grey hair has become a common phenomenon.

However, the Health Department is yet to conduct any survey in this village, which has a population of over 3,300 people and many of them belong to Scheduled Castes. The village located on the Malout-Bathinda highway in Muktsar district, falling in the Malout Assembly segment, is one of the worst-affected villages from waterlogging. The water samples lifted by officials of the Health Department last year had failed to clear the potability test. Ironically, no follow-up was done.

The village now houses a large number of fish ponds. A large number of people lost their primary source of income after vast areas of agricultural land turned infertile due to waterlogging. Villagers have taken to fish farming, availing a subsidy being provided by the government.

Gurmukh Singh, a registered medical practitioner (RMP), husband of village’s sarpanch Sukhvir Kaur, said, “A large number of people in the village are afflicted with ‘kala pilia’ (hepatitis B and C). Some people have even lost their lives due to this disease. Further, children are now developing grey hair. However, no survey has been conducted by the Health Department in this village.”

He said, “A majority of the people were unwilling to undergo any medical test because they fear being afflicted with the disease, the treatment of which consumes lot of money.”

Jarnail Singh, another aged resident of this village whose son Balkaran Singh is afflicted with hepatitis B said, “The drinking water is unfit, which is spreading the disease. A large number of people are experiencing symptoms of hepatitis B and C. The village doesn’t even have its own water works and water is supplied from the nearby Babanian village, which is also affected by waterlogging and its water is unfit for human consumption.”

Natha Singh, another resident, said, “The village has just one Anganwari Centre in the name of healthcare facility. Besides, a reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant has been installed but the location is unfriendly. Even the quality of water from this plant is doubtful. A majority of the people are still dependent on underground water for their daily chores.”

Meanwhile, a visit to the government primary and middle school in the village showed that many children had grey hair.

When contacted, Dr Balwinder Singh, Senior Medical Officer (SMO), Doda, said, “The village is the worst affected from waterlogging and the water there may be unfit for consumption, which seems to be the cause of hepatitis B, C cases and the greying of hair. Besides, lack of vitamins might also be affecting the health of residents.”

“Though I am on leave, a team of the Health Department will be immediately sent to the village to thoroughly examine the situation,” he added.

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