GAYA: With the distinct possibility of all the 234 residents of Bhoop Nagar being shifted about three km away to a locality near the source of potable water with normal fluoride content (about 0.5 mg per litre of water), the village moves towards the status of “Bhoot Nagar” (abode of ghosts).
In any case, it has already acquired the image of a cursed village, and water offered by the villagers to thirsty passers-by and visitors is politely shunned.
All the options, including the relocation, were discussed in the village on Sunday last when the local MLA and minister for energy, law and welfare, Shakeel Ahmed Khan, descended along with a team of officials representing the health, PHED, development and other concerned departments. The representative of a Bodh Gaya-based NGO was also there in the village.
Keeping in view the sentimental attachment of the villagers to the soil of Bhoop Nagar, the minister wanted the health and development department officials to first explore the possibility of providing safe drinking water to them. The PHED officials, during the open discussion, appeared to be sceptical about the viability of a water treatment plant being set up for the villagers. Shifting the villagers to a place near the source of safe drinking water is a much more sensible option, it was argued.
It also transpired that the physical deformity phenomenon was first noticed by an Indian Council of Medical Research team touring the area to study the impact of malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency in the rural areas of Gaya district. Responding almost casually to the problem, the state government distributed six domestic water filters among the villagers about two years ago. These domestic water filters were soon rendered useless as the poor villagers neither knew how to clean the filters nor could they afford to pay for the periodical change of candles fitted inside the filters.
Admitting that the Bhoop Nagar tragedy was a slur for him, the minister asked the civil surgeon to conduct a thorough medical check-up of all the 234 residents of the village to assess the damage caused to their health by the fluoride-contaminated water. Civil surgeon L Hussain promised to complete the check-up at the earliest. Testing of the village crops, fruits and vegetables was also recommended. As the fluoride content gets reduced if water is drawn from a depth of more than 200 feet, this option also came up for consideration.
Former Gaya MP Rajesh Kumar, who formed part of the ministerial entourage, offered to take six-year-old Sudhir, the youngest fluoride victim in the village, to Delhi for treatment and rehabilitation. The bend in Sudhir’s bones is at present in the initial stage. Proper treatment and physiotherapy may help Sudhir become an eligible groom.
Today or tomorrow, Bhoop Nagar villagers will have to be shifted to a place near the source of reasonably safe drinking water, says a social activist, A M Karimi, who teaches chemistry. But the Bihar’s social chemistry has its own equations, which cannot be easily overlooked.