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Cancer a 'non-issue' for parties in Malwa

‘On average, 5-9 die every year at Bathinda village’

Cancer a 'non-issue' for parties in Malwa

Sukhmandar of Chathewala celebrates his birthday with his mother, who later died of cancer. File

Tribune News Service

Sameer Singh

Bathinda, February 10

On an average, five to seven cancer patients die of cancer every year in Chathewala village of Bathinda, situated at the tail-end of Talwandi Sabo block, for the past many years. Of around 500 families in this village, over 150 are afflicted with the deadly disease. It is one of the several villages in various districts of the Malwa region, which is infamous as the cancer belt in the state.

The agony of seven-year-old Harnoor Singh’s (name changed) parents, who lost their only child to blood cancer three years ago at Chathewala village, can’t be imagined. Harnoor’s father, a marginal farmer, had sold one acre of land to bear the cost of his treatment at private hospitals in Bathinda and later in Ludhiana, but could not save his life.

Leaders busy luring voters

Leaders of political parties are busy luring voters with freebies while campaigning but they do not have any roadmap to address one of the gravest issues facing the state. Let alone address it, they are not even bothered to talk about it. —Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal, Cancer care society ambassador

Similarly, Sukhmandar Singh (45) of the same village, had lost his mother (six months after the diagnosis) to cancer over a year ago. He said: “Not even a single political party has shared a comprehensive roadmap or its vision for early diagnosis (as maximum cases are detected at the third or fourth stage), prevention or to provide quality medical treatment for cancer patients. One of the major concerns of the state is, shockingly, a non-issue for the political parties.”

Sukhmandar said: “Due to lack of proper mechanism in place to ensure early diagnosis and treatment, the fatality rate is higher in the state. Moreover, lack of awareness among people and concerted efforts by the government are also a cause for concern.”

The number of cases, due to polluted groundwater and overuse of pesticides, is high in the Talwandi Sabo constituency villages, Jeon Singhwala, Nasibpura, Bhagi Bandar, Mahi Nangal, Laleana, Natt, Mansa Kalan and Deon villages of Bathinda. The rate of cases reported in Mansa, Muktsar, Sangrur and Ferozepur districts is also high.

As per the data of the Advanced Cancer Hospital that caters to cancer patients of not only Bathinda and other Malwa districts, but also those from neighbouring Haryana and Rajasthan, 6,233 cancer patients visited the outpatient department (OPD) unit for treatment in 2016 and the number notched up to 14,802 patients in 2018. In 2019, it further increased to 18,616 and in 2020, the patient inflow increased to 30,768. Owing to Covid restrictions, the inflow remained somewhat static and 30,459 patients (new and follow-ups) visited the hospital for treatment.

According to data accessed from the Advanced Cancer Institute-cum-Hospital, there is almost fivefold increase in patient inflow, both at OPD and IPD sections, in the past four years but the cancer facility is grappling with acute shortage of staff, thereby taking a toll on quality of treatment being provided there.

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