Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Punjab is committing suicide

Punjab Today editorial
from June 19-25, 2010 edition

On a day so important for Punjab because it was the anniversary of Operation Bluestar, the mass circulation Punjabi daily 'Ajit' published an editorial on environmental concerns. Though Dr Barjinder Singh Hamdard, who personally signed the editorial, did not explicitly say so, his choice of choosing to focus on the environment and poor health of Punjab's soil, water and air underlines some interlinkages that many simple minds miss. The reverse violence of Green Revolution that left in its wake unemployment, agri-stagnation, skewed development and poor social parametres formed a great component of the reasons behind the militancy years that Punjab suffered.
Within the next ten days, Dr Hamdard was back, editorially, penning yet another well argued missive on environment under the title "Sarkaran suchet hon" (Governments must stand aware). "The soil, that produces our food, has turned into poison....A sick mentality can only lead to a sick society," the editorial said.
On the same day, The Times of India carried a front page report titled "Parts of Malwa, Rajasthan drinking poison?" It revealed shocking discoveries by a German lab that had tested water samples from five villages near Fazilka. The intrepid reporter of The Times of India followed it up the next day with yet another mind-jolting report from Faridkot that revealed how even the milk that the kids are fed contains uranium traces, and doctors are now looking for solutions in camel milk.
Toxicity is all around us. It is in our food chain. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's hometown Muktsar has registered 1,074 deaths due to cancer between 2001 and November 2009 while 668 others are on their deathbed. Reports say in Lambi alone, the home constituency of Badal, 211 residents lost their lives and 164 got afflicted with cancer in the last eight years. In Gidderbaha, the constituency of finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, cancer cases are more a norm than exception.
These statistics are all from a health department survey report.
By the time scientists were fearing arsenic exposure, they are encountering uranium traces. Adults and children are suffering from cerebral palsy and mental retardation as a result.
When someone like Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal, himself a member of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), says that the Punjab government is drafting anti-pollution laws only on paper and not implementing, it is time to be scared.
When editors of mass circulation newspapers start hammering a point through signed editorials, and one after the other report shrieks about the slow suicide that Punjab is committing, there should be no reason why our people, our government, and our civil society should waste even a single day in trying to stem the tide. Deathly cyanide is flowing from factories from Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Phagwara into drinking water sources. Malwa is sick. Sewage and untreated industrial waste is flowing into the rivers we worship. It is akin to someone kicking the pooja thali as you say your prayers before your deity.
Piecemeal methods will not work anymore. We need to re-think our view of what is development. We need to return towards sustainable agriculture. We need to end the chemical, radiation and biological toxicity. We are committing highway theft and robbery on resources that legitimately belong to our future generations.
There are none so blind as those who won’t see. It is time we climbed atop rooftops and shouted our neighbours, our children, our government and ourselves into doing something about what we all know is killing us. We need to deal with this problem as we would have done with a highway robbery. You don’t wait to act when you know of a dacoit planning his next hit. Punjab’s air, soil and water deserve no less.

No comments:

Post a Comment