The Way To Dusty Death
Wind buffets the dust along, and the thorn- twig hovels of Rupsi sway like drunken crones. In the lone brick hut of the hamlet a little girl sobs loudly, hiding her festering hands behind her back. “She has got the itch on her hands again,” her mother tells the health worker, hitching a whimpering tot on her hip; “and the stomachs of all the children are bad again.” About 62 per cent of the rural population of Rajasthan state drinks highly polluted, brackish water. Many people in the remaining third walk over 10 kilometres every day to fetch fresh water. And what they fetch in pots laboriously carried over the sandy wasteland is meant for drinking and cooking only. Only a fool wastes water on washing. These are the dry facts of life in the arid areas where sand, dust, whipping winds and scorching sun dictate the fate of human settlements. Romantic visions of nomad life cloak much of the harsh reality of arid zone conditions. Perhaps it takes global deliberations— like the recent UN conference on desertification— to focus attention on what happens where the waters of life and health run dry. The diseases born of contamination “happen” there as do diseases rooted in poor hygiene. The ailments born of arid zone limitations on diet persist. “Desert people are hardy and wiry and strong,” the saying goes. It is true of the desert people who survive their environment.
19 MILLION PEOPLE IN INDIA, VICTIMS OFDESERTS’OMINOUS MARCH