Mahendra Singh parts the crowd massed on the dimly lit platform to pull his ailing mother-in-law on board the train locals call the Cancer Express.
The farmer from northern India jostles for space in the blue train before gently laying Charanjit Kaur down on the bare wooden bench. Cradling two small bags, the couple are bound on an overnight train for a hospital a state away in Rajasthan where she’s to be tested for suspected water poisoning.
“I thought we were done with this disease,” said Mahendra, 55, who lost his mother to breast cancer four years earlier. “But it never goes away. People say we’ve dirtied our water and that’s why we’re suffering.”
Though they increase harvests, chemical compounds in fertilizers and pesticides contaminate agricultural runoff that pollutes adjacent waterways such as canals and seeps into the groundwater, said David Michel, Washington-based director for environmental security at the Stimson Center.
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