The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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At loss over high cancer rate
- 81 people dead in the past 20 months

Siliguri, Oct. 6: Doctors and local residents cannot fathom what has been causing so many cancer deaths in five wards of Dhupguri municipality and also in the Baroghoria village panchayat area, around 2 km from the town.

The number of cases has been so high that even Jharmagurmari, the infamous “suicide village” in the Dhupguri block, has taken a backseat.

The statistics available with the block health department showed that over the past one year and eight months, there have been 81 cancer deaths in these areas, which has set the alarm ringing for the district health administration.

“We are concerned over the rising incidence of cancer in our area,” said Baharuddin, a resident of Baroghoria. “We do not know why so many people of our locality have been falling prey to the terminal illness.”

The list of deceased includes Ramgopal and Bina Bhadra, an aged couple and residents of ward 6, Aftab Ali and Nasiruddin Mohammad, two brothers and residents of Baroghoria, Biplab Mondal (21) and Mamoni Basak (16) of ward 3 and Susanta Mondal (21) of ward 7. A few others are undergoing treatment at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH), while many of them have even been to hospitals in south India.

“Since Dhupguri is primarily an agricultural belt, we feel that frequent and unprotected handling of chemical fertilisers and pesticides could be a reason behind cancer infliction in the area,” said Indranil Sarkar, the block medical officer of health in Dhupguri. “But of course, there can be other reasons, too.”

The other causes for so many deaths from January 2005 to August 2006, doctors said, included consumption of chewing tobacco, working at cement factories and dolomite mines of Bhutan and lack of proper treatment.

“We do not have any cancer treatment unit in our district and need to go all the way to NBMCH,” a resident of said. “Nasiruddin of Baroghoria got cancer after he returned from Bhutan. His brother Aftab, however, had never been to Bhutan but he also died of the same disease.” Health officials in Jalpaiguri also admitted that they do not have any stock of cancer drugs and so cannot distribute them free of cost.

Banamali Roy, the zilla sabhadhipati of Jalpaiguri, seemed extremely concerned over the issue. “When we heard of Jharmagurmari, we launched awareness campaigns to stop suicidal trends of the residents,” Roy said. “We need to do something about this situation as well.”

Bhusan Chakrobarty, the chief medical officer of health of Jalpaiguri, however, said: “It is not possible for us to carry out research to identify the cause of the frequent cancer deaths here. We can only refer the patients to the NBMCH when they come to us.”

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