At last, Punjab minister of agriculture Tota Singh reached Mari Mustfa village under Baghapurana subdivision in this district on Sunday with several senior health officials where more than 70% residents have been suffering from dreaded diseases such as hepatitis-C and cancer for the last two years. At least 165 people in this village have lost their lives to these diseases during the last one-and-a-half years and the counting is still on with two deaths three days ago.
On Sunday, the Hindustan Times reported that more than 400 people of Mari Mustfa have been suffering from cancer and hepatitis-C and the deaths occurring almost daily.
Tota Singh met the residents and listened to their grievances. He has ordered the health officials to conduct an inquiry into the matter immediately.
The minister also ordered all senior medical officers to keep an eye on the functioning of the medical practitioners practicing in rural areas.
A shocking fact emerged on Sunday that sewage water of the village is being poured into a borewell, which is used for drinking. The borewell has been dug at the level of the underground water from which hand pumps and submersible pumps are taking out water. This water is being used by the villagers for drinking. Some villagers told Hindustan Times that they have poured the water of the pond in the village six times during the last one year.
“Whenever the village pond seems to be overflowing, we open the borewell door and the water is drained into it,” said sarpanch Darshan Singh of Mari Mustfa.
“There is no way out of this at present as we have no other option than to pour the water into the borewell. We had requested the authorities concerned to make an alternative arrangement to drain out water of the pond, but nobody helped us,” he added.
Asked why don’t people fetch water from the RO plant set up in the village, various Dalit families said that they could not pay monthly charges for the water being sold at the RO. RO was set up in the village a few months ago, but villagers have been diagnosed positive for cancer over the past five years," said the sarpanch.
“Is there any guarantee that the RO water is pure and does not cause cancer?” questioned the villagers adding that they didn’t believe that RO water was a solution.
Speaking on the issue, Tota Singh said, “I have asked the villagers that the Punjab government will provide 90% subsidy for laying pipelines to drain out water from the village pond. “I will discuss the issue with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and request for providing free treatment to the poor patients,” the minister added.
Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal, global ambassador of the New York and London-based organisation ‘Save-A-Life” and “Roko Cancer”, who also visited the village, has announced that “Roko Cancer” will adopt Mari Mustfa village for treating all the patients of cancer as well as hepatitis-C free of cost. “We are going to organise a meeting of the board of directors at London in first week of December and special teams under the supervision of senior doctors will start their job in the last week of December.
AAP MPs Bhagwant Mann from Sangrur and Sadhu Singh from Faridkot also visited the village and listened to the grievances of the villagers,
Interestingly, Maheshinder Singh, MLA, who represents the area in the assembly, did not bother to visit the village. "MLA Maheshinder has never visited the village, and we are angry because he did not even come to attend the bhog ceremony of any one in the village," said Gurtej Singh, a resident.
‘Babas’ also at play
Several cancer-hit poor people of Mari Mustfa and nearby areas are also going to ‘babas’ to get cured as they believe that they are under the influence of some spirits.
Many ‘babas’ are known for performing miracles to dispel the evil spirits and ghosts by giving their ‘blessings’ and sprinkling ‘holy water’.
As per information, every day over 500 cancer patients and their family members reach Bhinder Kalan village in Moga district and to meet a ‘baba’ and get his blessing to get relief from the disease.Social worker Dr Raj Dular Singh of nearby Smalsar village said, “Even some people who have not yet been diagnosed for cancer, but have some suspicion for having cancer-like symptoms, are rushing to the ‘baba’. They do not go to a hospital for treatment but prefer to go to the ‘babas’. We have started a campaign to make people aware about it.