Union Minister for Home & Family Welfare Amit Shah, in an interview with news channel Times Now's Navika Kumar on April 18, 2021, said 30% of the population in West Bengal drinks fluoride contaminated water. He also mentioned that there has not been a single seed of jute in Bengal in the last 42 years or that jute trade has shut down in the state.
These claims are false.
Only 0.1% of the population in West Bengal drinks fluoride contaminated water, according to a FactChecker analysis based on a Lok Sabha response from September 22, 2020. As many as 154 rural habitations and 1,09,844 people have been affected in West Bengal making it the eighth-highest state with fluoride contaminated water in the country.
Rajasthan (54%) is the most affected state followed by Bihar, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. These states together account for 87% of the rural habitations affected by fluoride contamination. In all 5,443 rural habitations and 43,28,421 people drink such water as of September, 2020.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral used in many dental products to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities but an excess of fluoride ingestion can cause fluorosis which affects the teeth and bones. A long-term ingestion of fluoride in high concentrations can lead to severe skeletal problems, according to the World Health Organization.
In the LS response, the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti mentioned that it has decided to set up a National Centre for Drinking Water, Sanitation and Quality (NCDWSQ) at Kolkata at a capital outlay of Rs 96.21 crore with a focus on fluoride mitigation. The construction of the building and campus development of the centre has been taken up and is nearing completion, the response read.
Moreover, there has been a 79% decline in the number of habitations affected by fluoride in the last 10 years in the country. In 2010, a total of 26,131 habitations were using fluoride-contaminated water. This number dropped to 12,727 in 2015 and further declined to 5,443 habitations in 2020.
States such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Gujarat have seen a steady decline in these numbers. But, West Bengal has reported a mixed pattern. In 2010, there were 959 habitations with fluoride concentrated water which increased to 1,015 in 2015 and then it significantly dropped by 84% to 154 habitations in 2020.
The Home Minister also claimed that there has not been a single seed of jute in West Bengal in the last 42 years. This is also false.
According to a bulletin published by the National Jute Board in June 2019, West Bengal produced 75.12 lakh bales of jute in 2017-18. One bale has 180 kilogrammes of jute. West Bengal accounted for 76% of jute and mesta production in the entire country the same year, according to the bulletin. The Jute Corporation of India procured 6.9 lakh bales of raw jute from the state in 2018-19.
There are around 60 to 65 operational jute mills in West Bengal, according to Chitraved Das, HR manager, India Jute Mills Association in West Bengal. The association also has a strength of 36 workers, Das told FactChecker.
A jute mill named Maa Annapurna in Dakshin Dinajpur in West Bengal has been set up in the last five years, according to a Press Information Bureau report in March 2020. As far as the jute industry is concerned, the domestic demand/consumption of jute goods has increased slightly during the last three years, the PIB report says.