Dirty water and cancer are the untreated problems of this Faridkot village. A clean solution to the water problem is as near as a channel in the next village. The answer to cancer is a mystery, and so is its source, unless it is water.
Gurusar, a village of nearly 1,800 people, is fast losing its population to cancer, and the only help from the health department is a maximum financial relief of Rs 1.5 lakh. "Nearly 10 deaths (have occurred) from cancer in just two years," said Gurdarshan Singh Gill, a former panch. "Five people are under treatment."
Villagers kept dismissing the threat until more and more deaths were linked to cancer. "The outbreak hit us with surprise," said Gill. "Three days ago, Wasan Singh, a man of 63, died of tongue cancer," said Balbir Singh, a retired headmaster who lives in the village.
In Feburary, villager Jagraj Singh lost his wife, Amarjeet Kaur, to cancer. Rani, 45, married at Waradaraka village and the only daughter of her parents, battles the disease.
Jaspal Kaur, 45, wife of Karnail Singh, a driver, had her breast removed at Guru Gobind Singh Government Medical College, Faridkot. "I had cancer for three years but I thought it to be an ordinary lump and didn't show it to a doctor," she said. "Only when it spread did I go for examination."
Even 25 days past her surgery, on which her family has spent about Rs 1.5 lakh (a huge part of its savings), Jaspal Kaur is yet to receive any monetary relief.
A pipe dream
Pure drinking water is a dream. "The groundwater is unfit for human consumption," said villager Nachattar Singh. "We have new waterworks for the supply but the main channel that carries water into it is open, and so it brings filth into our tanks."
"We wanted underground network of water pipes from the waterworks but because of a dispute with neighbouring village Behbal Kalan, its people don't allow us to lay it," said former panch Gill. "This project is half done."
"The channel that feeds our waterworks passes through Behbal Kalan, the villagers of which wash clothes and bathe cattle in it," said Raminderpal of Gurusar. "My wife's parents, who live in Behbal Kalan, have cancer."
At Kothe Ramsar, another neighbouring village, the situation is just as grave. Since 2009, the village has reported 5 deaths because of cancer. At Sarawan village, four patients are under treatment. Many cases are unreported.
Is anyone even looking into the source of cancer? "We are," Dr Tejwant Singh Randhawa, civil surgeon of Faridkot, said in reply to the question. "A cancer survey is on under a special project. The senior medical officer of Bajakhana will examine the case of Gurusar."
The causes of cancer are many and it's hard for doctors to pinpoint one before analysis. The maximum assistance from the government is Rs 1.5 lakh, Dr Randhawa confirmed. Ravi Bhagat, deputy commissioner of Faridkot, agreed to examine the matter.