Kerala: As endosulfan wound festers, kin of victims demand relief

An indefinite strike has been on since Jan 30 demanding the inclusion of 1,031 affected individuals in the list of victims With no response from the government, protesters are gearing up to carry out hunger strike this month
Murshitha and her mother with a placard demanding inclusion of 1,031 endosulfan affected individuals in the list of victims
Murshitha and her mother with a placard demanding inclusion of 1,031 endosulfan affected individuals in the list of victims Photo | Express

KASARAGOD: For Kasaragod, endosulfan remains a festering wound. Governments have come and gone, yet the misery of individuals and families affected by the pesticide refuses to go away.

Aerial spraying of endosulfan on the cashew plantations of Kasaragod first started in 1978. Initially, the effects of the spraying were seen in insects, birds, fish, and foxes. Later, human beings started showing indications, largely in the form of congenital conditions, including hearing loss, cerebral palsy and mental disorders. Those living near the plantations were the worst affected.

In April 2017, medical camps was conducted by the state government in various locations in the district to identify victims. Around 4,000 people attended the camps, based on which a list with 1,905 people was prepared. But authorities only declared 287 of those as affected.

Following a 2018 protest by the Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Munnani in Thiruvananthapuram, 76 more people were added to the list. In January 2019, the mothers of victims conducted an indefinite strike, after which 511 children under 18 years of age were also included. This took the number up to 874, who received medical aid and other benefits from the government. Others, though, never received any updates.

Murshitha and her mother with a placard demanding inclusion of 1,031 endosulfan affected individuals in the list of victims
1,031 people do not fulfil endosulfan victim criteria: National Health Mission

“We started an agitation to include the remaining 1,031 people in the list so that they can also receive medical aid,” says Shyni P, convenor of the Endosulfan Samara Samithi, formed by the families of those affected. “The impugned order, which said children born after 2011 would not be included, should be reversed. These children require medical and financial support. My 32-year-old brother, a victim, has also been denied justice. He relies on others for every aspect of life.”

Thahira and Shahir
Thahira and Shahir

An indefinite strike was started on January 30 this year, demanding the inclusion of the 1031. The strike is being organised by the samithi at the mini civil station at Kanhangad. As there has been no response from the government, members are getting ready for a hunger strike this month.

Demand for justice

“Thahira, 41, and Shahir, 39, the eldest of my four children, are among those affected. In the past, I used to carry them around, but now I am 64 and unable to do so. My wife died recently from cancer. The only assistance Thahira and Shahir receive is a disability pension. We approached the Endosulfan Authority multiple times on the issue of the children, but no help has been forthcoming. I hope the protest will help resolve our problems,” said Abdul Rahman, from Kalnad.

The endosulfan cell, which is supposed to meet annually with representatives of victims, was last convened on January 8, 2023. It’s been over a year since it last met.

“Two of my daughters are affected. Both of them were not in the list of victims. In 2018, my younger daughter passed away at the age of 22. My oldest daughter is 33. I am unable to go to work as she cannot manage anything independently. When I travel to participate in the protest, I place her in the care of my neighbour. Protests have become our only hope. We must continue doing so until justice is achieved,” said Prassana B, of Hosdurg.

“We will picket the revenue divisional office on May 8. And even then if they do not call a meeting, we will go on an indefinite hunger strike,” said Shyni.

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