Pachgai Khera village is just 20 km from Agra, where tourists sip bottled water as they gaze at the Taj. But the fluoride-laden groundwater that the villagers are forced to drink leaves them crippled and bent.
Text by Ishita Mishra, Photos by Arun Kumar | July 10, 2017
The water they drink poisons their bones. Scores of people in Pachgai Khera, a village of some 500 residents, some 20 kilometres from Agra and off National Highway 44, are bent over or have their limbs twisted at the joints. Many have mottled or darkened teeth. Growing children are stunted in their teens, their studies and play halted, their movement and confidence impaired by twisted limbs and dwarfism. Cataract is common. Every other person, even if not deformed, complains of joint aches. It’s the same in the neighbouring villages of Patti Pachgai and Rohta. The culprit: fluorosis, caused by long-term consumption of water with too much fluoride. The permissible limit for fluoride in water is 1 ppm (part per million); the health department of Uttar Pradesh found that fluoride levels in groundwater in the region is 3.5-4.5 ppm. This is caused by fluorspar and fluorite deposits in the soil that dissolve in groundwater.
The only solution is to have safe water piped or transported to this village. “If bringing water to the area is difficult, deep boring should be done. Water obtained from 500 feet deep will be far better than what is obtained from shallow wells,” says Dr BS Yadav, the chief medical officer for Agra district.
Villagers say that, despite representations to the administration, nothing is being done. “No one is listening,” says Chetna Kumari, an accredited social health activist (ASHA) of Pachgai Khera. “And the staff at the health centre hardly ever visit the patients. Now, even the villagers are not bothered about treatment. They say it’s their destiny.”
A borewell pump draws ground water, which is stored in a badly maintained tank and then piped to taps from which many villagers draw water. But the ground water is fluoride laden, and it is not treated before supply, villagers end up with fluorosis.
Most children in the village have brittle teeth, stained a dirty yellow from the fluoride deposits. As they grow older, if they continue drinking the same water, their teeth will become mottled and dark.
Rohit, who is 12-years-old, goes to school only when someone is able to carry him there. He doesn’t go out to play, and keeps to a corner in his house. His legs are bent, so he cannot join his two sisters and two brothers, who go to school and play in the streets. His mother Sunita, worries about his future – she even looks darkly ahead and wonders if anyone will marry him. She knows his condition is likely to worsen: she has seen it happening to so many others. The 500-foot-deep well is a dream better left undreamt. “Where will I bring the money for that?” The villagers could of course pool money for a common borewell, but then there is the shadow of caste divisions.
Thaan Singh, 50, and his wife Lata, sold the one bigha land they had for their treatment. With the little money that remained, they bought themselves a reverse osmosis (RO) water purifier, because the doctor said it would help. His wife sells biscuits, paan masala, chips, etc. from a small shop outside their house. And what does Thaan Singh do for a living now? “Bas khatiya todtey hain! (I just sit and squander my time!)”
Gurdayal is 16, and gave up studies after class X. When he was about 11, he realised his legs were getting deformed. “It’s all because of this handpump,” he says, pointing to the pump from which his neighbourhood draws drinking water. He even believes the same water is to blame for a stray dog’s bent legs.
(The photo story appears in the July 1-15, 2017 issue of Governance Now)
Lamenting that in the race to catch eyeballs with sensational news, tabloid journalism has got mixed up with serious journalism, senior journalist and Padma Shri awardee Alok Mehta has said that credibility perception of Indian media has gone down. Yet, despite criticism, Indian media is free and powerful.
In a milestone achievement, India’s cumulative vaccination coverage has exceeded 30 crores. A total of 30,16,26,028 vaccine doses have been administered through 40,45,516 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7 am Thursday. As many as 64,89,599 vaccine doses were administered in the 24
The Government of Gujarat has launched a web portal and a mobile application to facilitate online registration of workers from the unorganized sector by giving them smart cards for availing various welfare schemes. Chief minister Vijay Rupani has given a befitting reply to his critics that
As the city of Mumbai went into the lockdown in March 2020, those who were on permanent dialysis and caught Covid infection or suspected to have been infected were badly in need of dialysis treatment. At the same time a large number of patients who were already in dialysis centres started contracti
The Tamil Nadu government has announced the `Economic Advisory Council` to the Chief Minister comprising Nobel laureates, Raghuram Rajan, former governor of Reserve Bank of India and various other economic experts from around the globe to advise the state on how to reverse the economic slowdown. The state
All 15 Kashmir Valley Railway Stations, including Srinagar, have now got integrated with 6021 Station Wi-Fi Network of Indian Railways. Public Wi-Fi, provided under the brand name of RailWire, is available at 15 stations such as Baramula, Hamre, Pattan, Maz