The National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the Jharkhand chief secretary on Wednesday, seeking a report on high fluoride levels in drinking water leading to killing and maiming people in the state's Garhwa district.
Taking cognizance of an HT report on the issue published on Tuesday, the rights body also decided to send a team to the spot for an evaluation. "The contents of the media report, if true, raised a serious issue of violation of human rights," an NHRC spokesperson said.
On Tuesday, disturbed by the HT report, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh wrote to Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda, requesting immediate intervention.
In Ranchi, Munda said the government had initiated corrective measures in 2004-2005, when he was in power, but "a lack of follow-up action" and "poor awareness" has worsened people's woes. "We had taken the help of National Metallurgical Laboratory to test the groundwater and installed fluoride treatment filters in hand pumps," he said.
In drought prone Garhwa, deep boring is the only source of drinking water, but it comes laced with flouride. In several villages, the fluoride level is 3.5 ppm (parts per million) against a permissible level of 1ppm.
The Kanhar Irrigation Project, launched in 1976 to store river water for irrigation and drinking, is yet to see the light of day.
"A consensus from partnering states (Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh) is hard to come," Munda said. "The Centre should facilitate remedial actions."