Endosulfan victims launch indefinite stir in Kerala

MAN-MADE: Endosulfan victims sit on a dharna in front of Kerala Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.

Poignant scenes are being witnessed in front of the Kerala government secretariat as several endosulfan victims — children with mental and physical deformities from north Kerala district of Kasargod — accompanied by their mothers have launched an indefinite hunger strike seeking genuine assistance from the state and the Centre.

What is more shocking is that many of these children, even those who are fully bed-ridden like 13-year-old Sania, was dropped from the official list of the endosulfan-affected persons. About 4,000 people, especially children with mental and physical deformities, were allegedly eliminated from the list of beneficiaries.

Activist Daya Bhai, who joined them in the strike accused the government of denying genuine needs to the victims. “Instead of giving assistance in piecemeal, the government should ensure that all the deserved are properly taken care of,” she said.

“So far, the government did not invite us for any talks,” said Ambalathara Kunhikrishnan, secretary of the action council of endosulfan victims. Instead, government representatives had been maintaining that all the deserved were given the due assistance, he said.

Pointing towards the children at the makeshift shed Kunhikrishnan asked, “How can the authorities deny assistance to these children. Fatima and Alsema, both aged seven, are mentally challenged and bed-ridden and they always require the care of their mother. More pitiable is the condition of 13-year-old Sania, who suffers from almost 100% physical and mental deformities.”

Though the initial plan was that only the mothers of the endosulfan victims would launch the stir in front of the secretariat, it was found to be impossible for the mothers to come down leaving the children at home. Most of the children always require their mothers’ support for all basic needs, said Kunhikrishnan.

Hundreds of endosulfan victims and their kith and kin will be launching a parallel stir in Kasargod town from Thursday.

According to Kunhikrishanan, about 10,000 people had been affected by the use of endosulfan. However, the official figures are only around 6,200. He said that many children who were screened at the medical camps organised by the government and found to be endosulfan affected were dropped from the list on flimsy reasons.

Many Panchayats that were affected by the indiscriminate use of endosulfan in the cashew plantations of Kasargod were also eliminated from the list. Though the Supreme Court ordered the Kerala government in 2017 to pay compensation  to tune of Rs 500 crore to the victims, the government paid compensation of Rs 5 lakh to only 1,350 victims only and another 1,315 were paid Rs 3 lakh each, he said.

Meanwhile, official sources at the office of Kerala revenue minister told DH that Rs 185 crore was distributed to the 6,000-odd victims.

Over these years, the endosulfan victims have staged a series of stirs in the state capital, including a nine-day stir
2016.

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Endosulfan victims launch indefinite stir in Kerala

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