Fighting for a cause
The rashes and burns on his scaly skin are not due to his advancing years. With red patches on his limbs and torso, this aged man is literally suffering from a two-year itch. His frail body stoops, overburdened not just with age but also the agony caused by his recalcitrant neighbour since 1998 and the apathy of the powers that be. Seventy-five-year-old K N Narayana Pillai is a victim of pollution and complete indifference to his plight on the part of the administration, the watchdog bodies and the bureaucracy.
Narayana Pillai resides at 3, Fourth Street, Radhakrishnan Road, Mylapore, Chennai, a primarily residential area. He has as his neighbour one A Subbarayalu, who runs a unit that prints and polishes sarees at 2, Fourth Street. The chemicals used for the purpose have caused pollution. The State Pollution Control Board, on its inspection, has found the trader discharges effluents into the metro sewer line untreated. Narayana Pillai has been persistently suffering from allergic dermatitis as certified by various doctors and has been under medication since mid-1998. "I have rashes and scars all over my body,' Narayana Pillai writes. "This is caused by the pollution arising out of the activities of the unit.'
Other residents in the area, including children of a nearby school too, suffer from skin rashes. The director of the school, who was very reluctant to talk about the problem, said the compound wall adjacent to the unit was raised and since then the rashes had subsided. This was corroborated by the school secretary. Another neighbour sold off his property and moved out because of the pollution that caused weals to appear on his skin and took up residence some distance away. When Down To Earth met him, he confirmed that he had been suffering from skin rashes due to the pollution from the unit that forced him to move out. However, both him and the school director were afraid to be named.
A textile printing unit could cause both air and water pollution. "It depends on the chemical dyes they are using,' says K K Saxena, senior scientist with the Central Pollution Control Board. "Azo dyes, which are banned in our country, are often used by unscrupulous traders. They cause radiation that is aggravated by ultra violet rays and those working in units using such dyes are affected.' Though such radiation is very mild, yet prolonged exposure is bound to create skin and eye ailments, she said. Professor H B Mathur of Delhi College of Engineering says, "Textile colours contain lead that causes radiation in the sun, leading to weakening eyesight.' Or metallic dyes could be the cause of Narayana Pillai's skin rashes, opines Professor B K Guha of chemical engineering, iit Delhi.
But no one knows for certain the exact source of pollution as the authorities who are supposed to investigate have not done so. Fighting for one of his most basic rights
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