Sushanta Talukdar

Failure in providing safe drinking water to garden labourers

Diarrhoea claims 168 lives in the State

It may become “a serious health problem”, says Health Minister

Guwahati: Assam government has directed the Health Department to lodge FIRs under Section 302 and 304 of the IPC against those tea gardens in upper Assam’s Jorhat and Golaghat districts which did not respond to repeated requests by the district administration for providing safe drinking water to garden labourers despite a diarrhoea outbreak.

The directive came in the wake of the death toll due to diahorrea going up to 168 in the four affected districts of Jorhat, Golaghat, Dhubri and Morigaon.

Announcing the State government move, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma told reporters here on Sunday that most of the diarrhoea patients were from the tea gardens of Jorhat and Golaghat. He said similar FIRs would also be lodged against concerned Municipal authorities for failing in improving the supply of safe drinking water. The Minister said the government was worried as the epidemic has every possibility of becoming a “serious health problem.” In Jorhat, 8303 people in 23 tea gardens and four villages were affected since April, claiming 85 lives, including 30 women and 31 children.

In Golaghat, 37 persons, including 15 women and seven children have died. Spread across 15 tea gardens and six villages, it affected 4100 people.

In Morigaon, 1800 were affected and 29 died while 17 persons died of the 5000 affected in Dhubri. Mr. Sharma said field visits by the UNICEF and the doctors of Assam Medical College and Hospital revealed that 15 affected tea gardens in Golaghat and two gardens in Jorhat had no doctors. Besides, there was only one tube-well against five labour lines in a garden.

The Deputy Commissioners of both the districts requested these garden authorities to install more tube-wells and the State government was ready to provide the fund from National Rural Health Mission, if the garden could not bear the expenses. The Minister said 500 medical camps had been held in the affected districts so far.