I'm in Bango village near Jadugoda, Jharkhand where I have cycled from Ranchi and am visiting households where children suffer from disabilities due to nuclear radiation poisoning.
Across the muddy street is the house of Parvati Gope, a 17-year-old girl who suffers from Lumbar Scoliosis, an S curve formation of the vertebral column. Parvati’s photos have been widely used by the anti-radiation poisoning movement and I recognise her from the handouts I had seen earlier. Her father mentions annoyingly, “Everyone comes and shoots her pictures and videos, but no one ever does anything about her condition. She needs to be treated and we need money for medicines. I cannot afford her medicines forever.” His apprehension is palpable and he tells me how difficult it is to have a child with a disability in a remote village.
The next house is that of Rakesh Gope, a school-going 13-year-old boy also suffering from muscular dystrophy. Only, in this case he is extremely active and walks, albeit with severely arched feet and soles. He also has difficulty talking. He has a brother and a sister, both without disability. The saving grace is that he goes to the same school as his siblings and that normalises his life to some extent. “How long can we provide for his medicine? We don’t even know how long he will live,” his father opens up to me about the miseries of providing for his son's medicines with a meagre farming income. He makes Rakesh walk and run for us, parading his condition for me to shoot. As bad as I feel to watch, I realise it is necessary to document this.
By now, I am beginning to feel that there is something is wrong, something amiss in this village. There are too many cases of disability being detected in a very small area.