JAGGAIAHPET (KRISHNA): Lingagudem, a minor panchayat in Penuganchiprolu mandal under Jaggaiahpet assembly constituency, is a village of sufferers as over 70 per cent of the 1,200 people in the village are affected by arthritis or rickets, thanks to the high percentage of fluoride in the drinking water.

People of this sleepy village have been drinking water which has a rich content of fluorine for years now. Ideally the drinking water should be free from fluorine, but the water supplied to the village contains 4.2 ppm of fluorine indicating dangerously harmful levels of flouride. Hence, almost every family in the village has one or two members suffering from arthritis. Pasupuleti Ramaiah (63), a farmer, can barely walk freely. He stopped working long ago as his limbs do not cooperate. “I suffer from body pains regularly and my legs have rendered me almost immobile,” he said on Tuesday. Thirty-year-old Kadiyala Yesu too suffers from arthritis but since he is young he is able to attend to his daily routine as a farmer.

Venkata Rao, a masonry worker, started developing muscle pains thereby affecting his work.

School-going children of the village come home daily with complaints of body pains. “Our children do not even play much,” an elderly person said.

The village is ruled by a Telugu Desam sarpanch, Murukutla Rama Rao, who is now the party candidate for the Mullapadu Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituency. Rao promises to ensure fluorine-free drinking water to the village with a plan to draw drinking water from the nearby Munneru rivulet through a six-km long pipeline at an estimated cost of around Rs 15 lakh.

But the mini treatment plant set up in the village four years ago is now defunct. It worked only for three or four months, Yesu said. A borewell had been sunk and this is the only source of drinking water to the village now.

While nearby villages like Lingala, Penuganchiprolu and Mullapadu are getting protected drinking water, Lingagudem, which is in the periphery, has been left out.

The villagers made several representations to the then MLA Nettem Raghuram, MP Gadde Rama Mohan and to the district collector B R Meena seeking protected drinking water supply. But protected water still remains a dream to the villagers.

Damuluru, Anigallapadu and nine other villages under the Jaggaiahpet Assembly constituency are facing the same problem. Thus, about 40,000 people living in these villages are being forced to suffer. The fluoride treatment plant at Damuluru functioned barely for a month. It has neither been repaired nor a new one set up to alleviate the problem.

Jaggaiahpet MLA Samineni Udaya Bhanu promises to take up the issue and solve the problem at the earliest. I have represented this to the government and hope something would be done soon, he told The Times of India on Tuesday.

Villagers here are still optimistic of being able to drink pure water and get rid of arthritis.