In Rajasthan, Scourge of Silicosis in Land of Widows
By IANS | Published: 06th September 2014 07:58 PM |
KARAULI: Anguri, 50, is worried about Danny's future. She does not want her one-and-a-half-year-old grandson to meet the same fate as that of his father and grandfather. Both died of silicosis that is caused by stone quarrying.
Anguri's husband and son died of silicosis, leaving behind their hapless widows to fend for themselves. Like her and her 30-year-old daughter-in-law Alaki, there are many women who lost their husbands to this incurable lung disease - pervasive among the mine workers of Kosra village in Karauli district of Rajasthan.
Karauli is one of the 19 districts in Rajasthan where thousands of mine workers are battling silicosis caused by inhaling dust containing crystalline silica. Locals describe this village as "the land of widows". But there are other 44 villages in the same region that share a similar story.
IANS met some 70 widows in this village which has a population of around 1,500. Of the 70, many are in the age group 30 and 40 and make their living by working as daily wage labourers.
"Sometimes I find it difficult to afford even a one-time meal for my children," Pito, 25, mother of three, who lost her husband a few years ago, told IANS.
Pito works in the paddy fields of others to make ends meet.
"I spent Rs.2 lakh on the treatment of my husband. I sold a small piece of land too, but he could not survive," an emaciated looking Pito said.
Misdiagnosis of silicosis and unchecked mining in the area have led to the death of a number of mine workers. The symptoms of silicosis resemble tuberculosis.
Like Pito, Gayabai's husband too fell prey to silicosis.
"This disease of stone (silicosis) has swallowed men in almost every house," said Gayabai, in her early 30s and a mother of seven.
Villagers say that 63-year-old Budho is the oldest male in this village.
What is disturbing is that the children of the widows appear pale and malnourished.
"Our children face a lot of problems. There are no health facilities nearby. Primary health centres are closed most of the time" said Guaganti, another widow in the village.
Rajasthan has 32,000 mines where over two million labourers work.
Illegal operation of thousands of mines in Rajasthan is the reason behind large-scale case of silicosis.
"Out of the 424 mines in Karauli, only 62 have informed the government about their operations," said Rajesh Sharma, programme coordinator of Dan Vikas Sansthan, a local NGO.
"Unofficially their numbers run into thousands," he said. A majority of the widows are in a debt trap because of the money they borrowed from usurers.
"I have suffered for 40 years for being a widow. I just don't want my daughter-in-law to meet the same fate," said Haro, whose son works in a nearby sandstone mine.