Basic amenities missing, national athlete KM Chanda’s family lives amidst mining dust in UP’s Mirzapur

With no tap water and electricity supply at her house, athlete KM Chanda’s childhood struggles can be imagined by witnessing the plight of her family members who barely manage a living. Dust from nearby stone quarries pervades the village but the athlete’s proud parents have somehow managed to keep her trophies shining. Details here.

Brijendra Dubey
| Updated: October 29th, 2021

Sonpur (Mirzapur), Uttar Pradesh

More than 800 kilometres away from the track field in Delhi’s Prahladpur sports complex where national athletics champion KM Chanda sheds sweat, the challenges for her family members living in Sonpur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Mirzapur are no less.

Among many prizes won at the national level athletics tournaments, Chanda recently bagged a gold medal in the 2021 Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships held in the national capital in March.

With no electricity or tap water supply available, Chanda’s house is situated in a hamlet called Sonpur Pahadi which consists of 15 households dependent on a single hand pump for accessing potable water.  The hamlet is at a distance of about 70 kilometres from district headquarters and also lacks an electricity supply.  At night, when it’s pitch dark, an oil wick dipped in a diesel bottle is what illuminates the golden trophies won by Chanda. 

Also Read: ‘90% diarrhoea deaths in India due to lack of safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities’

KM Chanda’s parent with the prizes won by her. All photos by Brijendra Dubey

To make matters worse, constant exposure to dust arising out of the adjacent stone quarry is sickening and has cost Chanda’s father his livelihood.  

“Hum koi kaam karne laayak nahin rahe. Saans phoolta hai. Zameen beche hain, usi se kha rahe hain, bachchon ko khila rahe hain,” Satyanarayan Prajapati, athlete’s proud father who suffers from tuberculosis told Gaon Connection. (I am not able to do any work. I start breathing heavily as soon as I walk a distance. I have sold my land on lease and the money obtained is being used for the survival of my family)

Also Read: Tuberculosis notification drops worldwide; India accounts for the largest dip: Global Tuberculosis Report 2021

Father’s illness a constant worry

Satyanarayan’s illness and inability to work has added to his wife’s responsibilities.  

“I have three daughters — Kiran (16), Seema (18) and Chanda (20). I also have a son, Mrityunjay (22) who is studying at ITI (Industrial Training Institute). It takes a lot of effort to support my family. I also have to take care of my husband, get his medicines, and take him to hospitals. I sometimes do farm labour and get paid on daily wages,” 38-year-old Heeramani Devi told Gaon Connection.

Satyanarayan’s illness and inability to work has added to his wife’s responsibilities.

“My daughters are reaching the marriageable age. I hope the government helps us in some way. At least provide safe drinking water in our household. My husband’s medicines are costly, we don’t have much money left with us and there’s no regular source of income. I have heard that Chanda is winning in sports at national level but our economic condition is the same,”.

For the past three years, Chanda’s expenses of diet and training have been paid by her coach Kulveer Singh. 

“I have been supporting Chanda in her journey as an athlete. It’s not an issue. I am proud of her and she is like my daughter. She has great potential and will do very well in sports,  I believe,” Singh told Gaon Connection.

‘Land sold on lease to raise funds’

Chanda’s father told Gaon Connection that their four bighas (about a hectare) of land is jointly owned by him and his three brothers. “It was mutually decided to sell the land on lease in order to raise funds to support our livelihoods. My medical bills were rising. So, the amount received after selling the land is supporting the household expenses these days,” he said.

Adding to the woes of expenses of her household, Chanda’s mother Heeramani stated that even arranging fuel to cook food is a challenge.

Heeramani Devi

“I received a gas cylinder in Ujjwala yojana. But who has the money to get it refilled. When I received it, the refill used to cost about five hundred rupees but now it’s almost hazaar-gyarah sau rupaye (Rs 1000-Rs1,100). We use cow dung as fuel to cook food,” she told Gaon Connection.

Also Read: COVID19, sinking incomes and rising LPG prices force rural women into using polluting fuels. Will Ujjwala 2.0 improve matters?

Villagers complain of dust, lack of electric supply

Meanwhile, other villagers raised the issue of mining which has adversely affected their lives.

“We face a lot of trouble due to stone mining. Stone crusher machine cuts stones all day. Our entire village is covered with a blanket of dust. It’s everywhere, in our clothes, inside our houses, even when we wake up in the morning it seems as if someone has applied some powder on our faces,” Budhdhi Ram, a resident of the hamlet, told Gaon Connection. 

Budhdhi Ram

“We have complained about it with the district authorities but all we get to hear is that dust is natural in an area where stone quarries exist,” he added.

Vinod Kumar Prajapati, Chanda’s cousin, complained of lack electricity in the village.

“All we have is a transformer which has been lying useless for years but no electric poles have been set up. How and when will electricity reach us remains to be seen,” the 25-year-old said.

He also said that the blasting used to break stones poses a risk to the lives of the residents as well.

Vinod Kumar Prajapati

“It is risky. Blasting should be done at least forty to fifty metres away but here it is being done in close proximity to our houses. Our cattle are often near the blasting site. It can lead to accidents,” Prajapati told Gaon Connection.

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