Punjab Desperate For Centre To Probe Rising Cancer Deaths

CHANDIGARH – The Punjab Government today requested Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to help the state ascertain the reasons behind the high incidence of cancer in the state, particularly in Muktsar, Bathinda and Mansa districts of the Malwa belt.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and state Health Minister Madan Mohan Mittal took up the issue with Azad during his visit to Amritsar today.

They urged Azad to engage a reputed international group of experts to conduct an extensive study of various aspects, including the quality of subsoil water, use of pesticides and fly ash, to ascertain the reasons for the rising cancer cases in the state. Mittal said the Union Minister has assured of all help in this regard. Despite several studies, there have been no conclusive findings on the cancer deaths in Punjab. Some studies have blamed the extensive use of pesticides and others the fly ash generated by various thermal plants in the Malwa belt.

In certain villages near Bassi Pathana, residents have been told not drink water from hand pumps because of the dangerously high nitrate content found in water drawn from these pumps.

Such pumps have been painted red by Mehar Baba Charitable Trust, which has been working on providing clean water to the people of that area. Former Director Health Services, Punjab, Dr Puran Singh Jassi, who is associated with the trust, said that nitrate was dangerous as it was toxic in nature and carcinogenic.

Against the national average of 80 cancer patients per lakh population, it is 90 per lakh population in the state. However, in districts like Muktsar, it is close to 135 per lakh population.

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