Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Anandpur, April 26:
With more than 20 young people – most of them below 25 years of age – dying within a year’s span due to renal diseases, panic has gripped a cluster of tribal dominated villages on either side of the National Highway in Odisha’s mineral rich Keonjhar district.
Besides the 20 dead, several others in Gohira, Uparsahi, Badasahi, Patharkundisahi, Mahisabahali, Kalabila and Sunatangiri located not very far from the block headquarters are battling for their lives after being afflicted with the disease.
While villagers are succumbing one after another to the disease, the Health department has limited its activities to merely conducting a survey with no efforts to contain it. Astoundingly, the Health department is yet to find out the cause behind the spread of the disease and the resultant deaths though it has been prevalent for more than a year now.
In the last one year, eight have died of the disease in Uparsahi, seven in Badasahi, five in Patharkundisahi and three in Sunatangiri. Kamal Kumar Nayak, Biranchi Nayak and Kanaklata Nayak of the last named village have died of the disease in the last one month. More than 20 are currently bedridden after being afflicted with the disease. With the death of the earning members, the families are living in penury and are broke.
Most of the deaths have occurred after prolonged suffering. While villagers earlier believed the spread of the disease was due to high iron content in the drinking water in the area, now suspect it to be a case of wtchcraft.
Left with no option, tribals have requisitioned the services of witch doctors to ascertain the cause behind the spread of the disease and its arrest. A priest from Champua and local dehurys have begun pooja from Saturday evening at the village. Villagers participating in the pooja said that the reason behind the disease and the deaths will be ascertained very soon. Around five thousand villagers have participated in the pooja leaving their work.