Gulam Sarvar belongs to a community of weavers in Benaras who are renowned for weaving Benarasi saris through generations. But nowadays, the community is receiving attention for another reason: TB. “Initially I was not feeling hungry, then I started coughing and feverish,” says Sarvar. “Then I became really weak and was bed-ridden and could not work anymore.” Gulam was infected with TB.
This is not just the story of Gulam Sarvar. There are thousands of such weavers who are becoming a victim of this disease. Around 30% of the population is infected with TB. It is easy for the weavers to get infected because of the dingy spaces they work out of. There is not much light or fresh air in the rooms where the looms are and the conditions are perfect for the TB bacteria to come into full form. The dust, the smoke and the fibre also add to the hazardous mix which brings down their immunity – priming them for an attack.
Malnutrition is another reason why the weavers' immunity is low. What worsens the state of the patients is the lack of proper medical attention and facility. On one hand the government officials are negligent and the other is the problem of patients going to quacks instead of trained health professionals. This is aggravated by the poverty of the weavers. “We take the medication for as long as we can afford it,” says Badarunisha. But can we afford to leave these weavers to their fate?