“Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.”
‘Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life’, Anne Lamott
The mind suffers, the body cries out. Stones lying in deep seas remain dry on the inside no matter how long they have been under water – the wetness has not penetrated. In the same way with faith, it is a matter of understanding without it never penetrates. Being a foot soldier of rural upliftment in Punjab means you belong to a small unrecognisable segment of people every day. As I read about the continuous deprivation and neglect of our roots, my contrarian views lead me to highlight the issues which are steadily washing away our countryside and making it unliveable. One of the more recent issues I have become involved in is Lasara drain – a 225 kilometer-long drain passing through the Malwa districts of Sangrur, Barnala and the cancer-ridden Talwandi Sabo, itself a place of historic importance to Sikhs and one of the five temporal takhts.
If our mind suffers, our body and soul cries out. The mind which is our rural belt continues to suffer from toxic waste flowing all around us. This laser drain was built 48 years ago to help create a sewerage canal – this type of drain is created around almost all villages to safeguard against excessive water flow from irrigation canals and to help alleviate water logging which was a serious problem in Malwa belt of Punjab. Instead these type of drains have now become the sustainer of toxic wastes which are being shed into it by various industrial units, whilst raw sewage too is being added into these drains.
Lasara drain is a 225 kilometer-long drain originating from village Dhamot in the Ludhiana district. It has become a serious health hazard as it carries toxic effulents of factories situated near it as well as their raw sewage. Despite concerns being raised by respective State Governments and various NGOs, no one has bothered to look deeply into the problem and it’s fallout. Farmers along this drain are being led to believe that this toxic filled drain water is good for there crops and may even help enhance crop production. Quite to the contrary, it has become a serious source of disease – mainly cancer and other skin related ailments – as the crops raised with this water are toxic too and it’s consumption leads to the spread of many diseases. If the mind suffers the body cries out.
Farmers are now aware that this drain water is leading to the spread of disease around them but as no clean water drains exist around them for irrigating fields, they continue to make use of this drain water. The pressure to raise multiple crops and attain better yields for economic survival leads the farmers into this mess. THey have even gone against the advice of farm scientists who strongly urge them not to use this drain water.
The powerful lobby of industrialists backed by the political parties to whom they contribute huge resources, have ignored several notices asking them not to shed raw toxic effulents and other sewage into this drain. The drain used to reach the adjoining state of Haryana, but the State Government there was wise enough to permanently create a concrete wall and block the flow. In contrast, our political system is deep in sleep and ineffective. Even civic bodies representing state machinery are boldly shedding the raw sewage of small cities into Lasara drain despite knowing that ultimately those very residents are going to eat the produce raised through this drain water. Worringly some influential people are taking drain water into private water tankers and selling it on to farmers for irrigation. such is the state of affairs in Punjab that recently high levels of uranium have been found in the hand pumps of some villages, water used for drinking purposes. Now, after the wide spread of diseases like cancer due to these high levels of uranium, some pumps have been sealed off in the Faridkot belt.
New refineries emerging in the Bathinda district – places that are being projected as the development landmarks of the state – are putting waste into Lasara drain. Despite environmental conditions existing to have treatment plants within the refineries, the easy cost-cutting measures and political connections have helped them to disregard such procedures. As these owners and rulers rarely live in our roots that are the countryside, one day the whole of Punjab will succumb to these environmental disasters with such neglect and callousness.
Small voices of concern are being raised but a collective effort is vitally needed to safeguard our roots. People like me, branded as terrorists and anti-development did once try to make the people of Punjab, especially the Sikhs, realise the potential we have and encourage living unto the ideals of real value with concern of our surroundings. We hoped that from the people, sensitive governance can rise to control our future and we can all connect with our roots. I began writing this, haunted bt Anne Lamott’s words. If the mind suffers as ours has for so long now, the body too is going to cry and yearn for upliftment and change.