By H K Dua in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2011
Train No 339 leaves Abohar every night to reach Bikaner next morning. Over a period of time it has come to be known as “Cancer Train”. This train has acquired the dubious reputation simply because nearly 100 cancer patients travel by it from Punjab to Bikaner for diagnosis and treatment at the Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Treatment and Research Institute.
The patients and their families travel as long as 350 kilometres every day from Abohar to Bikaner picking up cancer patients and their families from other stations in the southern Punjab. After diagnosis or treatment they return to their villages and small towns of the entire Malwa tract. Those who have travelled by this train come back with different stories about the patients suffering from cancer. Some exude hope of a better life, and others --- years of despair ahead.
Some preliminary research has been carried out about the prevalence of widespread cancer in southern Punjab which is rich in agriculture, particularly in growing cotton for the rest of the country. Research studies so far tend to suggest that pesticides and fertilizer that are being widely used and the consequent pollution of the water is leading to cancer in southern Punjab. The affected districts are said to be Ferozepur, Faridkot, Moga, Mansa, Barnala and Bhatinda.
I request the Health Minister to take steps for setting up a big cancer hospital in southern Punjab so that patients don’t have to travel all the way to Bikaner for treatment.
There is also the need for detailed studies to be carried out as to why the incidence of cancer is so high in southern Punjab. I hope the Government, the Health Ministry in particular, will take necessary steps urgently. (Ends)