It was about a year and a half ago that 30-year-old Nayimuddin Ansari last looked at his three children without any problem in his vision. On a sunny afternoon in March last year, while Ansari was going home, something got into his eyes. He stopped on the side of the highway, next to the Triveni sugar mill—the largest in Asia—in the Uttar Pradesh town of Khatauli. He rubbed his eyes to try to get rid of the irritant. A few days later, he had pain, and then an infection, in his eyes. “The local doctor advised me to go to AIIMS, Delhi for free-of-cost operation,” Ansari told me.
After five surgeries, for which he spent money on transportation, food and medicines, Ansari’s sight has not returned. He cannot travel and cannot continue his job of repairing pressure cookers. Ansari sits in his rented home these days, unemployed. Next to his house also sits a huge pile of ash, dumped by the nearest sugar mill.
The pile of ash next to Ansari’s house is no exception. All across Khatauli, sights like this are quite common.