A group of city-based activists, including doctors, have planned a unique protest by gifting scientists of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics and prominent nuclear physicist Bikash Sinha samples of ‘radioactive’ soil and water that they have brought in from villages around the Jadugoda uranium mine in Jharkhand. They are going to hand these over on Friday and Saturday to protest the ‘silence of the scientists’ against radiations from the radioactive waste that in Singbhum district that, they alleged, is allegedly causing various deformities and neuromuscular weaknesses among locals and the cattle.
East Singbhum borders West Midnapore and Purulia districts of Bengal.
“We will gather in front of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics at 3.30 pm on Friday, and in front of Sinha’s house at 5 pm on Saturday, to gift the scientists radioactive soil and water. They have consistently denied there has been any effect of radiation on the locals. If the soil and water from the local villages are free from radiation, they should accept our gifts,” said Chhandak Chatterjee, a member of the activist group Jal Jangal Jamin.
Uranium mining started in 1967 in the area by Uranium Corporation of India and the allegation of radiation hazards have cropped up time and again with no conclusive evidence in support of the allegations.
On September 17, this group of 23 consisting of 12 doctors, medical students and a professor of state-run N R S Medical College and Hospital organised a health camp at Bango village in Jadugoda, where they treated 193 villagers. h check-ups. The doctors and students were from SSKM Hospital, N R S Medical College and Hospital and Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.
Activists alleged that the radiation spreads from a pond, where waste from the milling stations is deposited. They allege that villagers living near it are being affected by the exposure to waste contaminated with radioactive elements.
“There is an abnormally high rate of cerebral palsy among children. Diseases like neuromuscular weakness, paralysis, muscle atrophy and birth asphyxia have become common. While I did not have the infrastructure to scientifically determine whether these were caused by radiation, the circumstantial evidences points only in that direction,” Durga Prasad Chakraborty, a teaching doctor of neuro medicine at N R S Medical College and Hospital told HT.
According to the doctors, the moot point is why are so many deformities observed in this area only.
According to Baishali Biswas, a final year student at N R S Medical College and Hospital, as many as 46 people of those who came were victims of various types of deformities. Most of the patients reported tumourous growth and developmental delay of children, watering from eyes and skin infections.
Bikash Sinha, however, is unperturbed with the planned protest in front of his home. According to him, he visited the site several times and would not have done so if he were worried about radiation.
“I’ll welcome the protesters and gladly accept their gifts. I will also try to have a dialogue with them to clear their misconceptions. Any such agitation should be motivated by logical persuasion of the truth,” Sinha, a former director of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, told HT, adding, “The concern over radiation from the mine has no logical basis.”
He argued that it is meaningless to protest at Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, as scientists working there have nothing to do with uranium mining in Jaduguda.
“It’s merely a research institution. The Uranium Corporation Ltd of India and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board are the concerned authorities,” Sinha said.