#India – Lead in drinking water stunts kids’ growth

DC |
Bengaluru: With the city facing a shortage of clean drinking water, the National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India (NRCLPI), based at St John’s Hospital, Bengaluru, is engaged in a project to evaluate polluted rivers around the city that are major source of lead poisoning.
The NRCLPI is working on the project in association with undergraduate students across six cities — Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Lucknow, Dehradun and Karad. The three-month project is expected to be completed by June 2013, prior to the onset of the monsoon.
The data collected after analysis will be submitted to government bodies and policy makers, says Dr Thuppil Venkatesh, principal adviser, Quality Council of India (QCI) and NRCLPI.
Lead affects the growth and development of cognitive function among children and reduces their IQ. Among adults it affects the kidneys, bones, muscles and also blood pressure.
With the help of NRCLPI experts, the student volunteers will collect samples for analysis using the latest technology. The samples will be evaluated for lead content in soil, in agricultural products and in drinking water within 500 metres of the flowing and highly contaminated rivers and water bodies in these six cities of study. The data will be used to correlate with the health status and Blood Lead Levels (BLL) of the people living in and around the places taken up for the study.
“Rivers in these six cities are now highly polluted, especially with contaminating lead due to increasing industrial activities, mainly from lead-based industries,” says Dr Venkatesh.
“Cattle drink this water. Water from these highly contaminated rivers is used for agricultural purposes and it also recharges the nearby ground water.”
NRCLPI has conducted similar studies on lead contamination, one of which resulted in unleaded gasoline being used across the country. NRCLPI also played a major role in bringing down the content of lead in paints.
If it can rid river water of lead contamination it will go a long way in preventing many illnesses. If this project is successful, it can be extrapolated to other rivers in other cities where a similar situation is seen, Dr Venkatesh said.


‘Would they have tortured me the same way had I not been a Dalit?’

Rekha Chavan shows the bruises four days after she was beaten up. Photo: Amruta Byatnal

Rekha Chavan shows the bruises four days after she was beaten up. Photo: Amruta Byatnal

Karad (Maharashtra), January 14, 2012 -Rekha was assaulted because her son allegedly eloped with a Maratha girl

Four days after she was beaten up, stripped and paraded in her own village, 42-year-old Dalit widow Rekha Arun Chavan wonders if she would have lived a life of more dignity had she been born in an upper caste. Rekha was assaulted because her son Amol allegedly eloped with a Maratha girl Anita Desai from Mulgaon village in Karad, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan‘s hometown. Relatives of the girl confessed to The Hindu that they had indeed beaten her up.

Bai aahe ka kutri? Am I woman or a dog to be beaten up like that,” Rekha asked this correspondent while she lay in a bed on Friday afternoon in Karad’s Krishna Hospital. “About 12 persons of the Desai family assaulted me for one and a half hours. They called me names and swore at me for being from a lower caste. Would they have tortured me the same [way] had I not been a Dalit,” she asked. She had no clue about her 22-year-old son Amol’s relationship with 17-year-old Anita, their neighbour.

“What was wrong?”

Speaking to The Hindu in Mulgaon village, where the incident happened, Anita’s cousin Bhimrao Desai said, “What is wrong? How would anyone else react if their daughter had run away with a lower caste man?”

So far, five persons from the Desai household have been arrested in the case, and are under police custody.

The Desais are Marathas. According to Rekha, the village always lives in fear of the Marathas. Nobody speaks against them. There are about 25 Dalit families, and 100 Maratha families, she said. “When I was being beaten up, everyone just watched. They want to live safely in the village,” she said, showing the black and blue marks on the thighs, back and hands. Rekha said she had been ostracised by the villagers, even from her community, on the orders of the Marathas. She owns a small provision store. She lost her husband 22 years ago.

Like every village in Maharashtra, Mulgaon also boasts a ‘Tanta Mukti Samiti’ (committee to resolve disputes) under the much talked about Mahatma Gandhi Tanta Mukti Gaon Yojana (dispute-free village scheme). A dispute like this should have been identified and resolved at the village level. However, as Bhimrao Desai reveals, the head of the committee is also from the Desai community. “When things are going wrong in your own house, what can the committee do,” he asks.

Rekha’s son left the house stating that he was going to Pune for a job. “He left on December 13. I haven’t heard of him since,” she said. Anita went missing a day after. Since then, Rekha was threatened repeatedly. Her nephew Sharad and sister-in-law Surekha were also beaten up. While Sharad has lodged a police complaint, Surekha was too scared to take the step. It is also perhaps a sense of guilt that stopped her. “Amol had told me before leaving. He wanted me to give his mobile phone to Anita and help her hide her bag, I had conveyed the message to her,” Surekha said.

When attempts to get the information about her son from her relatives failed, the Desais targeted her, Rekha says. I kept begging them to leave me, and I repeatedly told them that I didn’t know about his whereabouts. But nobody listened. Both the men and women were merciless,” she stated.

In Mulgaon, though, there is a sense of acceptance of the atrocity. “Such things [inter-caste marriages] can happen in cities, but even we don’t feel good that it is happening in our own village,” Eknath Chavan, also a Dalit, said. “We know it is permitted by law but we cannot be OK with it,” he said.

Rekha’s neighbour Samabai Chavan, who was one of the eyewitnesses, said: “I tried to stop them. She held on to my feet while they were beating her with sticks.” According to Samabai, Rekha went to the hospital alone after being assaulted. Nobody from the village has gone to visit Rekha in the hospital. “She is paying for what she has done. We have to do our own work,” Eknath Chavan says nonchalantly.

In the hospital, Rekha’s 70-year-old mother Gayabai Sathe asks, “What has my daughter done? How will she go back and live in her house?”

Says Rekha: “I want to prove to them that I cannot be scared away. I will go back to my house in the village and live with dignity.”

Source- Hindu-  Amruta Byatnal


What Can you do for REKHA ?


Satara: Dalit woman stripped, beaten

Exactly a month ago, her son left their village home saying he had found a job in Pune. After that she never heard from him. The only thing this 45-year-old Dalit woman heard was taunts and blame from villagers who said her son had eloped with a girl from an upper caste family in the village.

Things went out of hand on Monday, when she was tied to a tree, stripped and beaten up by fellow villagers in Moolgaon village in Patan taluka of Satara — Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s home district.
Lying listlessly in Ward No 9 of Krishna Medical hospital in Karad, the woman broke down at the mention of her only son. “Why did I have to see this day?’’ she said on Thursday, surrounded by Dalit Mahasangh activists who have taken up her cause.

For the three days that she has been in the hospital, she has not had a single visitor from her village. She recalled how the neighbours would blame her and threaten her for what her son did. She said on Monday the threats turned real when the girl’s family and other villagers hit her and dragged her across the village. This followed a spat near the village well with the girl’s parents.
“For three hours I was beaten up till one of them said that if they did not stop I would die. I had to drag myself to a rickshaw after I was freed to approach the local police station,” she said.
Five persons from the village were arrested in this connection. On Thursday, a court sent them to police custody for two more days. They have been booked under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
“I have been staying in the village for the last 22 years after my marriage. I lost my husband very early in life and I have been doing all odd jobs to raise my two children. My daughter is married and settled and my son, who has studied till Class X, has been trained in driving. I run a small grocery shop from my own house,” she said.“On December 12, my son left the house saying that he had a job in Pune. I even packed his tiffin. Since then, I have not heard from him,” she said.

She said she did not know anything about her son eloping or his reported affair with the upper caste girl.

Although there were allegations that the Patan police station was initially hesitant about registering her complaint, Superintendent of Police K M M Prasanna told The Indian Express that the police extended full cooperation. “She is admitted to the hospital and we are ensuring that there is peace in the village,” he said.
The villagers are tightlipped about the entire incident.
Despite everything, the woman said after discharge from hospital she wanted to go back to her own village. “I will not be treated well, but I can’t live in fear elsewhere. I would rather die in this village itself,” she said.


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