The barren villages of Nalgonda tell stories of deformity, death and poverty. They stand as personifications of an apathetic government that has, over the ages, forsaken the lives of over 75,000 people affected by fluorosis — a condition born out of excessive fluoride content in water. The people of Nalgonda are living a nightmare, their pleas for help wiped away by those who would rather look elsewhere.
Hamsala Swami is 33 years old. His deformities because of fluorosis have rendered him incapable of all basic day-to-day activity. “My only aim in life now, is to ensure that this condition is stopped with my generation,” he says. Swami has made representations and has personally met the heads of the country and the state but to no avail.
Thirupathamma is 31 years old. A bright child until her tenth grade, Thirupathhamma’s health started deteriorating in 2000. “I do not want to see children and grandchildren of the coming ages rendered disabled like us. I want this to stop with my generation,” she says. Thirupathamma, a recipient of The Woman Achievement award, lives on a meagre pension provided by the state government.
K Subhash, State Convenor of the Fluorosis Vimukthi Poratan Samithi, says, “Fluorosis is a physical condition that develops because of excessive fluoride content in the water. According to the WHO, the permissible limit of fluoride content in water is 0.5PPM. However, the drinking water in many villages have a fluoride content of nearly 15 PPM.”
Nalgonda is affected severly by a lack of water, drinking or on the surface. Despite the proximity of Nagarjuna Sagar reservoir, the villages reel under a severe draught. Rs.323.16 crore was released from 1979 to 2001 by the State and Central governments of which only Rs.44.34 crore was spent from 1980 to 2002 on digging borewells and building deflouridation plants. None of it worked out.
International aid by the Netherlands government sanctioned `317.30 crore for the construction of 25 de-fluoridation plants. None ever materialised. The MP of Nalgonda, Gutte Sukendar Reddy and the MLA Komatireddy Venkat Reddy were unavailable for comment, despite several attempts.
What hounds the people of Nalgonda is the absence of the most basic human rights, government apathy and poverty. Brewing from this deadly concoction is the steady death rate of fluorosis victims who, despite great assurances of relief and aid from the government, are fighting a losing battle.
Nalgona and its people have been overlooked, and their stories are now being gradually eroded from history. All that will be left is a few memories, buried by the dust of arid ages.
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