Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

A meaningful life is all about knowing and not-knowing, so that one can change, adapt and make the best out of circumstances.

India has dealt with challenges of all sorts: poverty and extreme hunger, financial emergency, insurgency, loss of various leaders in crucial times, breaking shackles of Untouchability, finding consensus in land of utter diversity, doing away with rigid social customs etc.

With greater concern, India is not only enduring to fulfil its fundamental rights, rather Directive principles too.

But as we begin establishing equity for all in the country, are we sure all our societies have even their basic needs fulfilled?

Little did I know that a Hollywood film of 2000s (Julia Roberts starrer ‘Erin Brockovich’) can find relevance in Modern India: the Young India, capable and powerful enough to shake the world with its soft-power of course.

A story from west UP wrenching hearts and shattering imagination:

“In all the villages here, you find sick people. The doctor told us that this is due to the bad quality of water. My nephew has serious kidney malfunction issues. We can’t get him treated as we have no money,” tells a villager living in baghpat, UP.

Millions of people living along the banks of the Hindon river and its tributaries Kali and Krishna, had been and are consuming water that is filled with hazardous toxins.
Are they not aware of it?

No, they are completely aware but cannot afford to install water purifying systems and the Government has never cared.

The water is deteriorating further and those living close-by claim that there has been a surge in critical acute illnesses amongst people living close to the river.

A case regarding the same is underway with NGT (National Green Tribunal) and in 2018, NGT compiled the study concluding more than 71 people having died of cancer and even more than 47 persons being completely bedridden in Gangoli village.

More than 100 people have died of cancer in the last three years, and more than a thousand remain affected by plethora of other incurable diseases.

This health hazard is due to discharge of untreated sewage and industrial effluents since last 20 years, from Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar districts.

A time-bound action plan has been anticipated to ensure the water quality of Hindon river meets at least bathing standards for local people.

In March 2019, NGT asked Uttar Pradesh Government to implement the provided action plan within next six months and even directed the state’s chief secretary to “personally look into the issue of availability of potable water to the affected inhabitants.”

In its order, NGT says: “In view of serious failure of the State of Uttar Pradesh so far and alarming situation of pollution of the River, affecting public health, we find it necessary to require furnishing of performance guarantee in the sum of Rs. 5 crores to the satisfaction of the CPCB by the State of Uttar Pradesh to the effect that action plan will be implemented within six months from today.”

“On failure, the amount will be forfeited”.

Proofs of poison:

Even CPCB collated the data and found 12 polluted river stretches in UP alone from a total of 351 polluted river stretches identified across India.

Back in 2014, Haryana State Pollution Control Board collaborated with a retired senior scientist to collect the water samples from the Hindon river and its tributaries.

Findings: cadmium, chromium, nickel, cobalt, arsenic, lead, mercury and other heavy metals were found in plenty.

“It won’t be an exaggeration if we say the water of Hindon river isn’t water but a mixture of chemicals. There is no dissolved oxygen in this water. No aquatic species can remain alive in it.”

“If you dip your hand in the water, it can cause skin disease and if you drink it then there may be so many problems like hepatitis or even cancer”, explains the scientist.

Doctors and health experts have even verified the blames on contaminated water for health hazard in the area.

What about the Delhiites: air filled with toxins and food loaded with toxins?

The water that is not even fit for bathing or dipping a hand, is used incessantly to grow vegetables which are then supplied across Delhi-NCR.

Whose fault is it? Farmers claim to have no other option: to grow as well as to work. People are mostly associated with agriculture here.

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) explains: “we have poisoned our food chain.”

We now have a situation where our entire food production is contaminated with chemicals and on top of that, this contamination has entered our surface water, river water as well as the groundwater. So, even if you are not using pesticides for vegetables, there are enough chemicals in Hindon river which is going to contaminate the food in any case.

What is government and locals doing for the course correction?

Indians being Indians, have other priorities to be addressed and therefore, this demand of a few falls short of attracting appropriate legislative or executive attention. Not even the local political discourse includes this.

Hindon Jal Biradari, a group of activists who are making difficult strides to clean and save the river say: “They are not talking about the river. These political parties are talking about the irrelevant issues which are not related to people’s life and their demand. River, pond and groundwater…nobody is discussing it, and it is very frustrating.”

Unfulfilled SDGs and the fight for survival:

SDG 3: Good Health and Well Being and SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation are blatantly violated here and no International forum has come to help these people in distress.

It gives excruciating pain to even think for these local people who know what is coming to them with every sip of this water or even a bare touch of it.

Article 21 of Indian constitution guarantees a livable and healthy life to all Indian citizens. If authorities can no way assure whatever has already been guaranteed, then how can one expect a better youth helping this nation to prosper.

A citizen’s fundamental duty is always subject to the fundamental rights offered to a population and health is one crucial sphere.

Alas, India spends barely more than 1% of its GDP on Health which is disgraceful. Ostensibly, a Human is more dangerous to survival of another human than much notorious climate change. At least, it does not discriminate.

By Alaina Ali Beg

I am a lover of all arts and therefore can dream myself in all places where the World takes me. I am an avid animal lover and firmly believes that Nature is the true sorcerer.

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