GUWAHATI, July 24 - It is an out of the frying pan into the fire story. It may not strike a chord with those who matter in the corridors of power, but for the common people, it is matter of deep concern. Stung by poverty, a skeletal fluorosis-affected minor girl of about nine years of age, is now working as a stone breaker, after getting cured of fluorosis.
The girl, Sabina of Tapatjuri village under Binakandi Development Block of Hojai district, got herself cured of skeletal fluorosis due to the efforts of some NGOs, but she is now compelled to expose herself to silicosis to earn a livelihood for her poor family, after the demise of her daily wage earner father.
Sabina and her family, like hundreds of other people of Tapatjuri area, got themselves exposed to fluorosis consuming the groundwater supplied by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department of the State for a prolonged period. The groundwater supplied by the PHE contains excess fluoride, while the nutritional value of the food they take is very poor. Most of the adults of this area are either daily wage earners or marginal farmers.
The water these people used to drink contains 10 milligram (mg) of fluoride per litre and their urine samples once contained around 59 mg of fluoride per litre on an average, against the safe limit of one mg in both the cases. Three leading NGOs � INREM Foundation of Anand, Gujarat and Environment Conservation Centre (ECC) of Kampur, Nagaon and Fluoride Mitigation Service Centre (FMC) � provided calcium, magnesium, vitamin-D and zinc tablets, some nutritional food and fruits to cure the children of this area, besides launching a relentless campaign to generate public awareness on fluorosis. And their efforts paid off. On medical test, Sabina and several other children of the area were found to be cured of the dreaded skeletal fluorosis.
But, no sooner than she got herself cured of the disease, her wage earner father died. Sabina, being the eldest of the two children of the family, had no other way left to her than to engage herself as a daily wage earner that too as a stone breaker with a hammer in her hand. Now she is thus exposing herself to silicosis!
There are lakhs of Sabinas in our State whose childhood, and, even the entire life, is exposed to all such hazards, of course for no fault of theirs, says environment activist Dharani Saikia of the ECC, who is leading the campaign against fluorosis in Tapatjuri area.
Reacting to this sad development, noted public health engineer AB Paul, a crusader for safe drinking water, said � Sabina is born an unequal. He said Sabina�s present condition reminds one of a Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore poem. In this poem, Tagore said � My voice is choked today, my flute is song less/A black moonless prison/ Has submerged my world into a nightmare./ So in tears I ask Thee / Those who poisoned Your air, those who extinguished Your light,/ Is that You have forgiven them? That You have come to love them?