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Many Bangladeshis facing slow death from silicosis after their return from India

Many Bangladeshis who return from India are suffering from deadly silicosis, the Dhaka-based “Daily Star” newspaper reports. Here is the story by Kongkon Karmaker:
***
Many Bangladeshis are facing slow death from silicosis after their return from India following years of work at stone crushing fields in different states of the neighbouring country.
Silicosis is a form of lung disease that is usually caused by many years of inhalation of silica dust.
Most of these Bangladeshis, especially residents of bordering districts, had long been working illegally at various stone crushing sites in a number of Indian states including Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.
The Bangladeshis entered the neighbouring country in search of jobs and none of them have any valid travel documents.
The Daily Star recently interviewed several such returnee workers who are from Biral upazila in Dinajpur and Pirganj upazila in Thakurgaon.
All of them said that they used to work at different stone crushing plants in India for many years and are now suffering from silicosis.
According to lung disease specialist Prof BK Bose, who is the director of Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences in Dinajpur, silicosis is a fibrotic lung disorder caused by inhalation, retention and pulmonary reaction due to long term exposure to crystalline silica at mines, stone crushing plants and stone quarries.
High exposure to silica can cause silicosis within a month with significant impairment of lungs within few years, he said. "Life becomes shorter if anyone gets infected with silicosis."
Most people in Bangladesh still have little knowledge about the deadly but preventable disease. If anyone gets infected and the stage is at an acute level, the person will surely die at an early age, the professor also said.
Idris Ali, a 35-year-old man from Narabari village in Dinajpur's Biral upazila, crossed into India illegally in search of a job when he was 20.
He said he later got a job at a stone crushing site in Delhi and his initial monthly wage was 5,000 Indian rupees.
Idris returned home in 2016 after working there for ten years.
He fell sick soon after he came home and he primarily took treatment from local quacks. But after his health condition started to deteriorate, he recently saw a doctor in Dinajpur town and was soon diagnosed with silicosis.
Talking to The Daily Star over phone, Idris said many people in his village are still working at various stone crushing fields in different states of India. "If I knew [about the risks], I would not have taken the job," he sighed.
Till date, at least 11 people died of silicosis in Narabari village alone, he also said.
Since the treatment of the disease is highly expensive, he recently stopped getting allopathic treatment in favour of homoeopathic treatment.
Moinul Islam, a 26-year-old from the same village, said he went to India in 2013, looking for a job.
He later got a job at a stone crushing company in Haryana where he worked for six years. He returned home in 2019 and was diagnosed with silicosis recently.
His monthly medicine costs now go as high as Tk 6,000, which is beyond the affordability of his poor family.
While talking with this correspondent, Moinul said around 200 young people, mostly from Dinajpur, Rangpur and Lalmonirhat, work at nearly 200 stone crushing fields in India.
Another returnee worker, Khairul Alam, 29, from Pirganj of Thakurgaon, said he too was unaware of the risks and worked at a stone crushing field in India for five years to support his family in financial hardship.
He returned home in 2019 and was diagnosed with silicosis recently.
Dr BK Bose, the lung specialist in Dinajpur, said five of his silicosis patients had worked at different stone crushing sites in India.
Terming the trend of going to India for job a social problem, he said there are many job opportunities in Bangladesh now. "Awareness could be a solution to the problem."

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