'Yogi' activist continues fast in hospital

'Yogi' activist  continues fast in hospital

“This might be my last protest for environment protection. I will continue the hunger strike till my death. Poor mothers of endosulfan victims need not come and sit on the roadside the whole day against the indifference of the authorities,” said octogenarian and well-known environmental activist A Mohankumar. The indefinite fast by the Yogi activist, as he is fondly called, entered the 23rd day at Kasargod general hospital on Monday.

He started hunger strike near Kasargod bus stand on March 3 under the aegis of Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Samithy and was arrested four days ago and shifted to the general hospital. Though doctors have warned him that his condition is serious, Mohankumar is continuing the strike in Hospital. Mohankumar has been fighting for decades for environmental protection, including the governmental agencies and corporate houses.  He has fought for victims of Union Carbide in Bhopal and against construction of big dams in Delhi and Narmada Valley.

Beginning

Mohankumar, who plunged into eco activism when he was around 18, came to limelight as the Southern Coordinator of Save Western Ghats March, a historical march in which two teams of environmentalists travelled through Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharasthra and Goa by foot. The journey started simultatneously on November 1, 1987  from Kanniyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Navapur in Maharasthra. The intention behind the Herculean task was to create environmental awareness among public and highlight the plundering of Western Ghats by the five States. Two teams concluded the trip joining at Ramnath of Goa on February 2,1988. Several noted environmentalists included S R Hiremath, Anantha Hegde (all from Karnataka), Dr M Ganghadaran and Civic Chandran (Kerala), K Venkitachalam Thirumalai (Tamil Nadu) and Deenanath Manohar and Ullas Rane (Maharashtra) took  part in the journey.

Mohankumar was in the forefront of the strike against setting up of nuclear power plant at Peringome in Kannur. He has campaigned for Subhash Palekar’s zero budget farming and even trained 6,000 farmers in Kerala to pursue this eco-friendly method. Years back, he was attracted to the living style of Sidda Samaja people, headquartered at Vadakara, and from then on he has been wearing only white clothes, resembling a Yogi.

Demands

The endosulfan victims of Kasargod withdrew their strike a couple of months back following an assurance from the Kerala government that their demands would be fulfilled. As the government has not fulfilled the promise so far, they have started the protest again.

Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Samithy leader Ambalathara KunjiKrishnan alleged: “We have been betrayed. The government is lying on the action taken with regard to rehabilitation of endo victims. The government informed the National Human Rights Commission that it was distributing financial aid to 4,182 victims identified by the authorities as recommended by it. But the truth is that only 1,613 were paid small amount as compensation”.

Ambalathara KunjiKrishnan added that the State’s decision to stop aid to victims after five years other than pension for differently abled clearly showed the attitude of the government.

Now, the Samithy is demanding withdrawal of the controversial order to stop the aid, assistance to all the endo victims, waiver of Rs 21 crore loan taken by victims’ parents for treatment and setting up of a tribunal for looking into the compensation issue.

` 27 crore disbursed

Meanwhile, Kasargod Deputy Collector K Sudheer Babu, who is in charge of endosulfan rehabilitation cell, told Deccan Herald that the administration has, as of now, distributed compensation of Rs 27 crores to 1,613 victims. As many as 5,497 victims are identified by the government. “The remaining amount will be distributed once we get funds and the order from the government,” he said.

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