Endosulfan Children: Poisoned and Blinded, They Sing and Laugh at Life

We will bring you stories of children who bear the brunt of our actions.
Endosulfan Children: Poisoned and Blinded, They Sing and Laugh at Life
Endosulfan Children: Poisoned and Blinded, They Sing and Laugh at Life
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Dhanya Rajendran| The News Minute| June 23, 2014

Their story is no less spectacular than that of the Formula1 legend Michael Schumacher who beat all odds and came out of a six-month coma this week. But there’s one difference, a big one – they are the Endosulfan children of Kasargod in Kerala. And they are poor, very poor. 

While the deadly insecticide which acts as a contact poison has been banned following public outcries and parental outrage, the devastation trail of Endosulfan – banned 10 years ago – has claimed many young victims. For a quarter of a century, indiscriminate aerial spraying of the poison to increase agricultural productivity has resulted in a generation of children being born with birth defects. The push to save the cashew plantations has resulted in contaminated soil, water resources, wildlife depletion and permanent health damage to communities in Kasargod.

Yes, there are plans to rehabilitate and compensate families. There are protests and dharnas, petitions and public agitation. 

In all this desperation we bring you the story of two boys, two men, both 10th standard students in a Government school in Kasargod, the Schumachers whose stories are not as famous, but in no way are they any less inspiring and hope-giving. 

Devi Kiran is 16. He is blind – an Endosulfan child. His father Easwaran is a daily-wage worker, his mother Pushpalatha, a home-maker. Devi Kiran’s younger brother is also blind. The family comes from Enmakadir- one of the worst affected panchayats in Kasargod.

Devi Kiran cannot see, but one of his school teachers told me when the boy sings, people stop what they are doing to listen to a voice that is hauntingly mesmerizing. This year he won the school laurels at the Special school Kalotsavam (art festival). For many in the blighted region that is Kasargod, Devi Kiran is an inspiration, a voice of hope. Last week, a movie star visited the school – the boy’s voice has travelled far and wide. 

A local NGO pays Devi Kiran’s school fees and Kanaingadu T.P. Srinivasan is teaching him classical music. Music he says has given him hope and his favourite raga is Madhyamavati. 

School is far, so he stays in the hostel, but he tells me he will travel as far as it needs and as long as it takes to bring compensation and justice to Kasargod. “I have been to Delhi to meet ministers – it is a tough life we lead,” he says.  Devi Kiran aspires to become a music teacher. How will his family manage to educate him further I asked, “I hope there will be some way out. I want to study. I want to teach other children about music,” he says.

Dilip is 16 years old. Same class, same school. 

Dilp tells the tale of a serene hamlet in the Enmakaje panchayat. Life was normal. Villagers would be up at the crack of dawn to the chirping of birds and chattering of brooks intermittently broken by the loud rooster welcoming another dawn. 

And then the helicopters came. There were chemicals in the air, on the ground, in the water, food, feet, homes and everywhere else. Dead silence was now installed, from the air. Children ripped apart their clothes as the stench was unbearable, the diseases spreading. Some asked if this was god’s wrath. Others died, too weak to notice or protest. 

Enmajake is a fictional panchayat, and the entire sequence is a mimicry that Dilip does. But Enmakaje’s story is Dilip’s story. Dilip mimics this drama, this human tragedy at the Kalotsavam. It gets him medals, prizes and attention. It’s his way of coping with the tragedy. “A friend of mine gave me the idea – he told me since I had the talent, I should tell the story, our story so the world may know and must never forget. “

It is said that when god closes a door somewhere, a window opens elsewhere. Dilip and Devi Kiran just changed that – they have grabbed both the door and the window with their, ensuring through their art that the world listens to their song and their story and perhaps acts to ensure there will never be any Endosulfan children anymore. 

If this is not inspiring, what is?

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