Mahendra Singh parts the crowd massed on the dimly lit platform to pull his ailing mother-in-law on board the train locals call the Cancer Express.
The farmer from northern India jostles for space before gently laying Charanjeet Kaur down on the bare wooden bench. Cradling two small bags, the couple are bound on an overnight train for a hospital a state away in Rajasthan where she is to be tested for suspected water poisoning.
"I thought we were done with this disease," said Mahendra, 55, who lost his mother to breast cancer four years earlier. "But it never goes away. People say we've dirtied our water and that's why we're suffering."
Mahendra and farmers across Punjab state helped India double farm yields in 50 years, making the country a food exporter from a chronically hungry one in the 1960s. The "Green Revolution" introduced them to chemical fertilisers and pesticides that seeped into increasingly scarce water sources and contaminated food and soil. People in the second-most populous nation are now paying for it with their lives.
About 50 others aboard the train are also bound from Bhatinda to Bikaner to the same hospital for the same tests to see whether area waters are contaminated or toxic. Some are so sick they will not return.
Pesticides overused on wheat fields critical to feeding Indians that end up in drinking supplies or arsenic in water drained by wells may have led to the lung cancer that convulses Mahendra's mother-in-law.
In a country where one in five rural households has no drinking water, sanitation or electricity, Punjab is India's most-irrigated state.
Yet chemicals such as arsenic and fluoride, some that found their way into waters, others naturally occurring in less potent amounts that grew more concentrated as wells and aquifers were drained, began causing health issues in India, according to the World Bank.
"Poison has got into our water and our food," said Chander Parkash, assistant professor at Punjab Technical University. His study of contamination and depletion of groundwater tables and soil revealed a link with cancer deaths in the state's Malwa region. "We've used so much chemicals that our rivers and aquifers are now spreading death," he said.
Most fertilisers and chemicals are used without monitoring or guidance by farmers, many of whom cannot read, said Ajay Jakhar, chairman of the farm group Bharat Krishak Samaj. Illiterate farmers frequently rely on traders for word on how to use the chemicals. Seven in 10 Indians live in rural and semi-urban areas where literacy rates are as low as 46 per cent.
"We always ask farmers not to spray the pesticides before the outbreak of any disease or pest attack," Agriculture Commissioner J. S. Sandhu said. "If they apply before, they take the risk. Farmers should use those chemicals which are safe."
The equipment that farmers use to spray pesticides is often washed in canals and rivers. The same contaminated water that flows through these canals is then stored in village tanks that people use for drinking, Jakhar said.
At the hospital, Mahendra and Charanjeet do not know why cancer is killing villagers. Sitting on the train that stops at 27 stations during an eight-hour journey, Mahendra holds out little hope for his mother-in-law.
"She understands she'll probably die but I don't think she's afraid," he said. "Are people dying in other parts of India or is God angry only with us?"