At the mercy of sharks

TIGER prawn collectors face an enemy called the kamot, a small species of shark that infests the saline waters of the Sundarbans. Kamots have sharp teeth and they can slice off a limb. In 1992, the health department of Bangabella recorded 87 kamot attacks, most of them fatal.

One of the victims, Samir Kar (13), lost a leg to a kamot and bled to death on his way to a hospital in Calcutta. Debrani Mondol (32) lost his left hand, a result of a kamot attack, which also left his right leg paralysed.

But the doughty inhabitants of the Sundarbans are not about to give up. Says 12-year-old Shasti, "We are not afraid of the kamot and will collect prawns at any cost. To combat hunger, we really have no choice."

There is hardly any medical assistance available in the whole of the Sundarbans. A kamot victim needs immediate blood transfusion, and this is available only at hospitals in Calcutta, 50 km away. Victims rarely survive the journey.

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