Ganga-Meghna Brahmaputra || West Bengal || Bangladesh || Middle Ganga Plain, Bihar || Uttarpradesh
Jharkhand || North-East Hilly States || Rajnandgaon, Chattisgar || Behala, Kolkata, WB || As toxicity- Homeopathic Treatment
Effectiveness & Reliability - As Field Testing Kits || Utility Of Treatment Plant
Causes, Effects & Remedies - Groundwater As Calamity || References

Arsenic Poisoning in West Bengal : A Dubious Tradition


During December 18-22, (2001) and March 1-5, (2002) we made a survey at a few blocks of Bhagabangola. To our utter horror, we detected 1947 arsenic patients, 20 probable cancer patients and 70 probable Bowen's disease patients. Murshidabad district's 30,000 tubewell water analysis for arsenic and patient detecting have placed us face-to-face to a disastrous statistics, in Murshidabad alone, we expect 10 lakh people consuming water with arsenic content over 50 microgram per liter (which is the maximum permissible limit of WHO) and may be 1 lakh have arsenicosis out of a total 50 lakh population.

On 3rd March, 2002 while working at Najirpur village of Akhriganj Gram-Panchayet I came across the information about the village Madanpur again. Initially the thoughts of the prevalent terrible transportation system declared against my wish to have a visit to the village. The denizens supplied lots of hope in the tune of information that now car may go up to Badhpur village and then only a 10-15 minutes walk will get us to Madanpur. We decided to go to the Madanpur village.

A nostalgia gripped me at the sight of the rural setting of the village. Madanpur stood unchanged before my eyes. The uneven landforms, small huts, thatched roofs took me for a trip down the memory lane. The picture registered 10 years back seemed intact without even the mildest stain. I searched frantically for that senior villager I met 10 years before. The villagers informed me that he was no more but his once beautiful daughter-in-law still was there. The lady, was now biologically 30 years old, yet, appearance wise, she looked like a lady of an age almost half a century. Panting with a baby in her laps, the lady epitomized the decay of the disease over the last decade. I queried off Guddu, Tony, Babu … those who were featured in the once famous picture of the affected children in the souvenir. The lady replied that some of them who were in working condition are at their respective work places. Others, relieved of their working ability have taken shelter into their houses. She also called on some of them. The boys of the ill-famous picture were now beyond their youth. In fact they seemed to have lived their entire life in the 10 years that have slipped through the careless fingers of time. They were plagued by the cold touch of death. Devoid of élan-vital they seemed like walking carcasses which the carrion-eater called arsenic has nibbled up slowly.

But I was surrounded by children who carried prominent signs of arsenicosis. I wondered who they were? Were they the same children that of the photograph? No, they were a new generation. Yet they shared the same qualities of those in the picture. I felt that I have walked into the picture, which I took ten years ago. I felt that time has not moved a step since then. Rather the tradition of death, as the arsenic has put it forward, has been continuous. It has successfully overcome the effects of Chronos.

Though ironic, I incidentally remembered a childhood anecdote from the feature India (Bharatbarsha) by the famous writer Wazed Ali. The author once revisited Calcutta after 40 years and to his dismay discovered a very queer picture. He caught a glimpse of an old shopkeeper, bespectacled and wearing a vest, reading out the big Epic Ramayana aloud to his grandchildren who have flocked him. The author was mesmerized. This scene was familiar to him. He saw it after 40 long years! He felt the rich vein of culture running down the mega-structure called India. Amused, the author commented, "the tradition still continues!" Sadly arsenic portrays a similar picture of unfazed tradition.