Though the district administration as well as the higher health officials are making tall claims of providing the best medical facilities to residents of the cancer-hit Mari Mustfa village under Baghapurana subdivision, 33 km from here, yet several suspected patients are still waiting for the special teams of the health department for testing their blood samples.
According to sources, after 46 out of the 297 blood samples, tested for hepatitis C, were found positive in the village, the 'scared' health department stopped the door-to-door survey and blood sample testing in the village perhaps due to the high incidence of the disease in the village. Some days ago, after there was a public hue and cry in the village due to high prevalence of hepatitis and cancer, the state government had ordered a door-to-door survey and blood testing to map the spreading of the diseases.
Interestingly, while at the national level, the survey shows that hepatitis C disease was prevalent at the rate of approximately 1%, the alarming figure of 16% in Mari Mustfa village left the health department shocked. The residents of the village said that even this high figure has been downplayed as a number of people, who were detected positive among the 297 were not included the list of positive cases.
Dr Gurtej Singh, a social worker of the village, claimed that about 30% residents of Mari Mustfa are affected with hepatitis C and once the health department noticed this trend in the first 297 cases, they dropped the further blood testing campaign and the door-to- door survey. "The total population of the village is more than 9,000, but the health department has checked only 297 people during the last 20 days," he said.
It may be mentioned here that, on November 23, the Hindustan Times had reported that more than 400 people of Mari Mustfa were in the grip of cancer as well as hepatitis C and, after that, Vijay Sampla, union minister of state for social justice and empowerment, member of Parliament Bhagwant Mann of the Aam Aadmi Party from Sangrur, Faridkot MP Sadhu Singh, Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh, Barjinder Singh Brar, chairman of the Punjab Health Systems Corporation and several other higher health department officials had visited Mari Mustfa and listened to the grievances of cancer and hepatitis-C patients.
"All leaders had assured us that the door-to-door survey will be conducted at Mari Mustfa, Sangatpura, Maur-Nau-Abaad, Vairoke and Thathi Bhai villages but the health department has left this the programme in midway," said Dr Raj Dular Singh, another social worker.
When contacted, senior medical officer of Thathi Bhai hospital Gurmail Singh said, "We are waiting guidelines from our senior health officials for the door-to-door survey for finding suspected hepatitis C patients in Mari Mustfa. I hope that the new survey will be conducted in the next few days."
Waterworks not operational
The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) disconnected the power supply to the government waterworks at Mari Mustfa due to pending electricity bill worth Rs 6 lakh four years ago.
Darshan Singh, sarpanch of the village, said, "The panchayat has written several times about the bad condition of the local waterworks, but nobody has paid attention to our grievances so far. Even 20 days ago, when union minister Vijay Sampla visited our village, we had raised the issue for safe drinking water for villagers and the minister was assured that the pending electricity bill will be deposited by the government soon but nothing has been done in this regard so far."
The Sarpanch added, "Residents have been living under the threat of deadly diseases as they are drinking water contaminated with uranium and other heavy metals that cause cancer and other diseases."
Parminder Singh Gill, Moga deputy commissioner, said that the process to restore power supply to the waterworks in Mari Mustfa is running and this problem will be solved soon.