DanGarkhera Disease claims 11 lives,30 more diagnosed
Cancer patients that is what Dangarkhera in Balluana constituency of district Fazilka is infamous for. In the last two years,11 patients have died in this village because of cancer,while more than 30 others are suffering from the disease.
No specific reasons have yet been identified for the large number of cancer cases in the village and there are not even any properly detailed health records of the patients,despite the Health Department having organised a health camp twice there in 2010. The village cultivates cotton and paddy in rotation through the year,and uses pesticide sprays on its crops,though villagers admit to have reduced their use in recent years.
With time,the villagers themselves have learnt to detect and act on early warning signs of the disease. Bihari Lal,whose wife Tarawanti is suffering from breast cancer,says,We have minimised the spray in the fields and we even take special care in the rearing of cattle. I have got an inverter installed for my wife because after radiotherapy,she cannot bear the heat,and power cuts are common these days. Though an RO system has been installed in the village recently,we are going to install our individual RO system at home. We do not want to take any more chances now.
Tarawanti tells the tale of villagers like her. I was diagnosed with breast cancer about 3 years ago when around 7 other women had also been diagnosed,and we all got our treatment done from Jaipur Hospital. All of them have passed away and only I am alive. No one knows what has brought so many cancer patients to our village, she says.
The RO was installed in this village only a few months back,when the water samples in our village were found unfit for drinking. Before that,the villagers drank water from the canal or made their own arrangements. Recently,a pond renovation project was also started,after many demands by the village panchayat. The filthy village pond is being cleaned with NREGA funds after more than two decades.
Parmeshwar Devi,another breast cancer patient,says,Who knows what is the reason for the cancer cases? So whatever is being done,is for the best. The drains still need to be strengthened so as to make the village cleaner.
Parmeshwr Devis father-in-law had also died of cancer few years back. Another villager,Shanti Devi,was left with no means of livelihood after her husband Krishan Lal died of throat cancer last year. rishans mother was also a breast cancer patient and had died two years ago. I have five daughters and two sons and now only my sons are studying in government schools and my teenage girls are working in the fields as labourers to earn money.
Roshani Devi and Chandravali – two other breast cancer patients – also died about a month ago,while a third,Vidhya Chand,is suffering from breast cancer. The patients in the village who are still alive have learnt extra caution with regard to cleanliness and drinking water. Dewan Chand,Vidhyas husband,says,We are far more aware now,but still no one knows the root cause.
Registering cases: Pvt labs not cooperating
The cancer registry programme has been badly hit in Punjab due to lack of cooperation by diagnostic centres,private labs and hospitals,as they are not sending data to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR),sources said on Friday adding that information was being held by private institutes for their own vested interests.
Manjeet Singh Bal,Principal Investigator of Population Based Cancer Registries of Punjab,confirmed that ICMR had received 40 per cent of information of cancer patients.
He said many private institutions in remote areas of Amritsar,Gurdaspur,Hoshiarpur,Ferozepur,Patiala were not cooperating and there was a need to create more awareness about the programme.
Data gained after the state government initiated steps to facilitate a Cancer Atlas,is throwing up new patterns of cancer among people, he added.
So far,the department of pathology,Government Medical College,Patiala has registered 3,900 cancer patients in the past three years, he said.
Meanwhile,ICMR has written to Punjab to mobilise private diagnostic labs,hospitals to report details of cancer patients.
The project officer of National Cancer Registry Programme of ICMR,Bangalore,A Nandakumar has urged Punjab to call a meeting of health officials who have been regulating private diagnostic labs and hospitals in the state.
The Punjab government had issued a notification in October which made it mandatory for all public and private hospitals and labs to report online details of cancer patient within a week of diagnosis or suspicion.