Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Pesticide Safety Prayer

Mirajul Ansari, on the right in the picture, is a farmer from village Vishnupurva in Thana Shikarpur, under post office Maldi, in West Champaran, Bihar. (pincode 845455). He owns one bigha of land, and grows paddy, sugarcane, and wheat. He sprays pesticides with everyday clothes and a cloth mask, washes his spray machine with hand-pump water, which he does not quarantine or decontaminate. He keeps pesticides in a separate room of his house. Pesticide drift is also an issue in his village.

His wife Shamshun Khatun on the left of the picture is an icon of Indian culture. I found it hard to avoid her repeated offers of tea and a meal. Finally, I told her that I would return to avail of her hospitality after Thursday, August 21 2008. That is the day Saheb Alam, the brave-heart in the center of the picture will enter hospital yet again for another operation to treat his bone cancer.

The boy is just 13 years old. He is tall and could have been a quality fast bowler for India. He is also exceedingly bright, and could still be a scientist or a manager of modern India. However, the prognosis of his case is not particularly encouraging.

We will never know the real cause of this cancer. However, there is no doubt that invaluable years have been lost due to poor medical facilities in Narkhatiyaganj, the nearest market to this family's village. These unfortunate people received incorrect care in Betia as well. The cancer was only diagnosed at the Benaras Hindu University,after years of suffering. It has recurred and the family is now in Mumbai for treatment.

You can listen to an account of the family's suffering, and of the pesticide safety practices in this part of India, at the following link:


One thing on which we can all agree is that this week's operation must be successful. Please join me in prayer for the family. They are our fellow citizens. Later, we can work together to improve pesticide safety and cancer detection services throughout rural India.

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