New Delhi, Feb 15 (PTI) The NHRC has sent a notice to the Centre and the Chhattisgarh government over reports that the number of people affected by fluorosis and kidney diseases is increasing due to high level of arsenic and fluoride in drinking water in the state.

The Commission has issued notices to the chief secretary, of Chhattisgarh and the secretary of the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, seeking detailed reports in four weeks, including on the steps taken or proposed to be taken to deal with the menace.

“The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report that despite the joint efforts of the Centre and the government of Chhattisgarh, the number of patients suffering from fluorosis and kidney diseases is increasing due to high level of arsenic and fluoride in drinking water in the state,” the NHRC said in a statement today.

The total number of patients till August 2016 was 1,148, which has gone up to 1,170 now. The villages, adjacent to the industrial areas, have been reported to be worst affected. These include, among others, areas in Bastar, Raigarh, Bemetara districts, the rights panel said.

“Reportedly, according to the data released by the government, 55 people have died in Supebeda of Gariaband district. However, villagers claim that 103 deaths have happened due to the diseases caused by drinking contaminated water. About 225 people are suffering from kidney diseases,” it said.

The Commission has also observed that the contents of the news report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights, as drinking water is essential to realisation of all basic human rights, including the right to life with dignity.

“This is the prime duty of the state to ensure safe drinking water to its citizens. Earlier too, the Commission expressed its concern over similar reports of high level of fluoride and arsenic in drinking water in various parts of country,” the NHRC said.

According to the report carried today, about one-and-a-half year ago, the central government had issued data relating to areas affected with arsenic and fluoride.

“At that time, the maximum affected areas were found in the state of Rajasthan. Apart from Chhattisgarh, the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Punjab, Odisha, Karnataka and Telangana are also suffering from the same health hazard,” the statement said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.