No teeth, twisted legs, bent in waists: This is what ‘drinking water’ did to this beautiful Assam village
Doboka: No parents want to marry their daughters off to Assam’s Tapatjuri village in Hojai district and its surrounding areas. Also, many families having girls of marriageable age from these villages are finding it hard to get a groom for them.
Thanks to high fluoride containing water of the village that has made most of the villagers crippled. Their teeth are gone. Twisted toes and bent at the waist is making young people look at least 20 years older than their actual age.
Some 10 km away from the district headquarters of Doboka in Hojai district, an Assam village- Tapatjuri-is the best example of nature serving poisons.
“People don’t marry their daughters off in this village. No one wants to marry girls from these areas as well. People even get scared when they see people from this village. Girls are beautiful but with no teeth, no hair, twisted toe,” said Jayanti Kalita, a local woman of Tapatjuri.
Meet Sadhani Kalita from Tapatjuri! She is only 37 years old but looks like she could be 50 years or older. Kalita lost her teeth; her legs are twisted at the ankles.
Kalita is one of the many people in her villages who are suffering from both dental and skeleton fluorosis- a deformity of teeth and bones for consuming highly contaminated fluoride water. Excessive intake of fluoride over a long period causes fluorosis. Dental fluorosis corrodes, discolours and disfigures the teeth. Skeletal fluorosis is the condition where excess fluoride gets deposited in the bones and/or the spinal cord, leading to deformity and constant pain in severe cases. Legs, spinal cord and major joints such as neck, shoulders, knees and hip are most susceptible to accumulation of fluoride and the resultant deformity.
“How many people have come to me and how many times they have taken photographs of me I don’t remember. I lost my teeth, my legs are deformed, and have severe body ache. My brother and sister-in-law lost their teeth too when they were young.”
The government of India in February this year stated that 14 of the 34 districts in Assam are affected by either arsenic or fluoride contamination. The permissible fluoride content is 1mg per litre. However in Hojai and adjoining Nagaon district the content is as high as 15 mg per litre.
“My mother-in-law and three of my son are physically challenged because of the water. There was one water pump provided by the government which has been closed for the past couple of months. More and more people will be suffering. If I again conceive then again that baby will be born deformed. The older people are suffering from severe back pain” said a woman in Halodhibari village of the area.
The Assam government has provided some potable tap water connection in these villages. However locals say most of these taps are either defunct or have never been given water connection. The other functioning water taps are far from enough for the villagers.
“My name is Jahanara Begum. I cannot walk and also my hand is twisted. Earlier the hands were okay but then since the past six- seven years, it begun to deform. I and the children drink water from a tube well. All my three grand children are also suffering from the same disease. We don’t have government supplied water in this area. The tap in front of my courtyard has not been working since the past one and half months.”
The villagers also complained that they have been deceived by the politicians over and over again. “This area falls under Jamunamukh constituency. We have never seen our MLA. We don’t know who our MLA is. We don’t know whether he is fair looking or dark-skinned. So many people both in Muslim areas and in Hindu areas both are suffering from fluorosis”, said Jayanti Kalita.
A water project which has been sanctioned by the Public Health Engineering department in the area is yet to be completed.