Dust storm and mist

Why a pleasant autumn morning turned grimy for Savvy Soumya Misra

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Monday 30 November 2009

Dust storm and mist

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We were on our way to Kabrai town from Mahoba in Uttar Pradeshs Bundelkhand area. It seemed winter had set in early mist covered the skyline. The trees and the fields nearby seemed to be covered with thin sheets of snow. We rolled down the car windows and a paper-cut sharp twang of dust hit us. A coughing fit followed. My colleague Meeta pointed to the series of conveyor belts.

There were more than 200 of these tarantula-shaped machines on a 10-km stretch, crushing stones. Near one of these large spiders, a group of about 50 men, women and children were at work a few were ferrying stones in tractors, some carried stones on their heads, and a couple sporting curious iron-mesh eyegear were operating the machines.

The children hid behind their parents when they saw us. But little Bhola ran towards us. He wanted to show his bandages. Somebody remarked he was howling in pain a few days earlier.The bandages were from an injury suffered while trying to break stones.

The malik is not bothered, said Phoolmati Devi a middle-aged labourer at the site. We have no water..., she continued till a siren interrupted her lament. Deafening blasts followed.
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Injuries among workers are common in Kabrai town in Uttar Pradesh
Pieces of stones fly into our houses when the blast happens, Parvati Devi said pointing to a crack in the wall. Sometimes we get injured, but we cannot move out because stone-crushing in the only source of our income. A labourer told us his friend died a few days back because his tractor fell into a pit from 61 metres. A few men were giving us baleful looks; we decided to leave.

On our way back, the doctor in charge of the four-bed primary health centre at Kabrai confirmed asthma and silicosis were common. District collector Vijay Vishwas Pant sounded equally helpless. What can we do? They all have Uttar Pradeshs Pollution Control Boards permission.

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