The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has taken note of Down To Earth’s reportage on the unusually high occurrence of cancer in Bargah district in Odisha, India. It plans a study there to understand the related aspects of biochemistry and epidemiology.
The report highlighted the plight of the citizens of the agriculture-intensive area and the overuse of pesticides. The reportage has been discussed and a team was supposed to be sent on October 14, said Sanghamitra Pati, the director of ICMR’s Regional Medical Research Centre located at Bhubaneshwar. Mrs. Pati told the media that they have to study the pattern of the disease and to check if there is clustering and the epidemiologist will check the distribution of cancer and check if they are linked with chronic kidney disease, which is also prevailing in Bargah. She also added that there are possibilities of multiple linkages. The epidemiological study on time place and person distribution will form the background of an intensive study. “We will tie-up with either All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)-Bhubaneswar or the Regional Cancer Centre in Cuttack”.
The indiscriminate use of pesticides was flagged by several, from local doctors to agricultural experts as the major reason for the disease. DTE has documented families with more than a single cancer patient. In some cases, the disease has transcended generations. The cases were spread over several villages in what is known as the ‘rice bowl of Odisha’. The government maintained that little could be done in the absence of concrete data. Locals, on the other hand, pointed towards a vicious circle where the government would not initiate research and then blame the lack of any. The civil society’s demand for a cancer hospital hasn’t yielded results.