A Plague of Diseases and Disabilities

The Neglected Suffering of Villagers in Punjab

Diseases, deformities and mental illnesses are part of a neglected epidemic that has been going on for decades in a group of villages along India’s border with Pakistan that I chanced to visit in November. I had not even heard the names of these villages – including Teja Rohela and Muazzam – in Fazilka district in the northern state of Punjab. I was there for a story on an entirely different issue: how “outcaste” Dalits are discriminated against in the Punjabi society. The story, however, turned out to be about suffering that government neglect causes.

Several studies have suggested that contaminated water and wastewater drains in the area could be behind the deteriorating health of the residents. Yet, it seemed as if I broke the news to the officials I met during my visit.

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The video above – released on the World Disability Day, observed each year on Dec. 3 – shows the agony the villagers have been experiencing with no help at hand.

StoriesAsia, a collective of independent journalists from 16 South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, seeks to replace the present-day parade of faceless numbers with humanising narrative nonfiction – a largely ignored journalistic genre in the region.

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