The widow breadwinners of Dullian

  • BIVEK MATHUR
  • Publish Date: Jul 22 2018 9:19PM
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  • Updated Date: Jul 22 2018 9:19PM
The widow breadwinners of Dullian

In Dullian village of Samba, widows are family breadwinners as around 20 men of the village have died of Pulmonary Kochs - a form of TB - while working in a silica extraction unit

 

It’s 5’o clock in the evening and Preeti Devi daughter of late Charan Dass, a BA second year student in a Jammu college, is constantly looking at everyone passing by the street outside her house. This is the time her mother, Gharo Devi, reaches home every day from the cardboard factory she works in Bari Brahamana area.

Meanwhile, Vidya Devi, a prominent social activist of the village knocks at the gate and asks Preeti about the whereabouts of her mother.

“Usually she would come at this time, but today there might be some extra work in her factory,” Preeti replied and offered a cot to Vidya Devi at the verandah of her house.

Except two cots, an LPG connection, one table fan and a few clothes hung at the wall, there is nothing precious at the 3-room pacca house of Gharo Devi.

According to Preeti, her mother has spent all her earning on constructing a pacca house and giving proper education to her wards. When her father Charan Dass died in the year 2003 of Pulmonary Kochs, a form of TB, they had only a kaccha house.

“I hardly remember the face of my father as the year he died I might have been 2 or 3 years old. But I have learnt from my mother that my father was a hardworking man and he died due to a respiratory infection, as he worked in a factory at Bari Brahamana that extracted silica from sand,” she said.

Preeti’s father was not the only man in Dullian village of Bari Brahamana town in Samba district, around 15 kilometers from the center of Jammu city on the Jammu-Pathankot Highway, who died of Pulmonary Kochs that year or the following years.

According to Vidya Devi, the prominent social activist of the village, more than 20 men of the village died of the respiratory infection, Pulmonary Kochs in the year 2003 and the following years as the factory owners never provided masks to their workers.

Vidya said that when the number of people who died of a common respiratory problem increased, the factory owner packed up the unit from Bari Brahamana and settled somewhere else.

Fifteen years later, no present day factory owner in Dullian knows about the silica factory that existed in the village until 2013, where more than 20 people died.

In Preeti’s neighborhood, at a distance of around 20 meters is the residence of Balbir, a factory worker, who lost his father-mother duo, Janak Raj and Shuna Devi due to the same disease in the year 2003 and 2015, as the couple worked together at the silica extraction factory.

“I was only 10 years old when my father died of respiratory infection. After the death of my father, my mother also developed similar symptoms. When the silica factory was closed, my mother started working in another factory to earn the living. Later in the year 2015, she also died of same disease,” he said.

Balbir’s wife Mamta Devi said that her sister-in-law, Suman Lata now works at a tailoring center in the village to help his brother run the home together.

According to Dr Baazla Kakroo, long exposure to silica in silica extraction factories can cause Pulmonary Kochs “but it is not the only reason for the spread of the disease.”

Raj Kumari, 55, another woman in the village, also lost her husband when she was 40. But, more than her husband, she is worried for her son, Suresh, who also developed chest infection back in the year 2013, as according to the woman, her son also worked at his father’s factory.

Radhika, 37, wife of Suresh said that when her husband developed breathing problems, she took him to DMC Ludhiana.

“My family members borrowed Rs 4 lakh for the tests and medicine of my husband at DMC Ludhiana. We’re still paying for his medicines. To help my ailing husband, now I have also started working in a silai center,” Radhika said.

Rano Devi, mother to 4 girls, also works at a factory as her husband Boddo also died in the year 2003.

Pinky, Meenakshi Devi, Taro Devi are among the other women who are working as the family breadwinners in the Dullian village.

The working women of the village appealed the Governor NN Vohra and his administration to reopen the cases related to the deaths of the people who worked at the factory and punish its owner under relevant sections of the law.

The women also appealed the Governor for creating some better employment opportunities for them as they claimed that working in the industrial areas is dangerous due to the risk of air, water and noise pollution.