Article courtesy of Sukhbir Siwach & Bhaskar Mukherjee | October 14, 2014 | The Times of India | Shared as educational material
DABWALI: Dabwali town of Sirsa district is the first stoppage of the ‘cancer express’ which runs from Bathinda in Punjab to Bikaner in Rajasthan. “Sometimes there are up to 50 patients from Dabwali area who board the train to go to Bikaner for the treatment,” says a cancer patient Baljeet Singh Bhatti of Shergarh village.
Cancer patients in the area know that the train reaches Dabwali station at 10:20 pm so that they may reach Bikaner early in the morning for treatment. “This train is known as ‘cancer express’ because most of the patients travel by it only,” says Bhatti, an affluent farmer from Shergarh.
Dabwali is a stronghold of Chautalas and INLD has fielded party’s jailed leader Ajay Singh Chautala’s wife Naina Singh Chautala. Keeping in view the demand of cancer patients, INLD has announced to setup reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plants in each village of the constituency.
Bhatti feels that increasing cases of cancer is a major issue in the constituency. “In the past year, three cancer patients have died in my village while 10 more are still facing the threat,” he adds.
Situated on Haryana-Punjab border, Shergarh has a population of 6,000. Villagers blame the poor quality of groundwater for the increasing incidence of cancer. “I have 18 acres of land so I immediately arranged a water purifier, but everybody can’t afford such a facility on their own. The government must install RO systems in each village of the area,” he remarks.
Sirsa district planning board member Radhe Ram Godara says that due to non-availability of sweet water in the area even the government considers it a dark zone. “Further, increasing use of pesticides for crops is worsening the situation,” Godara added.
INLD leader and Sirsa zila parishad chairman Sita Ram feels that there were more cancer patients in the area than other parts of Haryana. “We have already installed RO plants in 15 villages of Dabwali. If our party comes to power, then we would install water purifiers in all villages of the area. Groundwater of this area has high flouride content which is causing cancer,” added Ram, a former medical practitioner.
Even in Dabwali town, cancer patients blame contaminated water for their problems. “It is because of leakage in the drinking water pipelines,” says Rani Devi, whose husband Lilu Ram, 50, is suffering with the dreaded disease.
Facing all odds after detection of cancer in 2012, another Dabwali resident Maya Devi, 59, is thankful to Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), which gave financial help of Rs 20,000 to her and other patients. Most of the cancer patients from this area prefer to go to Bikaner on account of comparatively cheaper treatment.
However, Congress candidate from Dabwali, K V Singh, says, “INLD leaders even don’t know what is the purpose of installing RO plants. This system is installed where tubewell water is being supplied while in this area canal water is supplied to the people after its treatment in the water works. Dabwali is not known as cancer belt but Punjab’s Mansa and Bathinda districts,” he claims.
However, local residents are apprehensive of cancer due to Dabwali’s proximity to Bathinda and Mansa.
The director general of Haryana health services Dr Narinder Arora says they could conduct a study, if there is an abnormal increase in the cancer cases in any particular area. According to Dr Arora, there was normal prevalence of cancer in the state in comparison to the national figures. “Around 25,000 new cancer patients come to the hospitals for treatment in the state annually,” he informs.
He claims that the government is serious to provide proper treatment to poor patients apart from free of cost medicines costing up to Rs 1 lakh.