Sanjay and Rakesh live near Jadugora, a town of 19,500 people about 850 road miles (1,370 kilometers) from New Delhi in east India’s Jharkhand state. Once ringed by lush tribal forests, Jadugora is today a troubling portrait of modern India, its outskirts a postcard of pastel-painted mud houses scattered amid tidy rice fields, its center the hub of India’s uranium mining industry that is fueling an unprecedented nuclear power boom.
It’s here that state-run Uranium Corp. of India Ltd. is licensed by the Indian government to gouge hundreds of thousands of tons of uranium ore out of the ground each year, while just over a hill, an easy walk from the village, 193 acres of ponds holding mildly radioactive waste stand largely unguarded save for no-trespassing signs.
For years, these desperately poor people living in scattered villages in the shadow of these mines have been tormented by a mystery: What’s causing the wasting diseases that are deforming and killing so many of their children?
Sanjay’s 70-year-old grandfather, a bare-chested, barefoot man rendered lean by hard work and a sparse diet, offers an observation shared by many here -- that before the mines came, children did not crawl around in the dirt and die. He might be dismissed as an illiterate, grieving relative of a crippled boy and a dead girl except that outsiders, including the Jharkhand High Court and environmental activist groups, suggest he may be right.
In February, the High Court in the state capital of Ranchi filed a petition that pointed to the mines operated by Uranium Corp. since 1967. Shocked by photographs of the area’s sick and deformed children in the Indian press, the court ordered the company and relevant government agencies to explain what measures they were taking to protect the health of those living in villages around the mines.
TVNL Comment: Corporate murder goes unpunished, or sometimes mildly fined. Wonder why.....