The Way To Dusty Death

India Today - - MAIL - by Razia Is­mail

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.


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