Over 210 protesters from Kasaragod journeyed overnight to Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday. Their destination was the secretariat, where they urged the ruling LDF government to hear their pleas, an exercise they have been carrying out in vain for several years now.
Hailing from Kasaragod, these protesters who were led by social activist Daya Bai were endolsulfan victims — those who had fallen sick following the excess spraying of endosulfan pesticide in the state-owned Plantation Corporation in Kasaragod.
The spraying of endosulfan began in the late 1970s and continued for more than 20 years. This has acutely affected the lives of generations living in Kasaragod over the years. Children were born with congenital defects, people have suffered cancer, newborn babies were born with physical and mental disabilities due to the effects of the toxic pesticide.
Yet, for over 6 years now, the government has consistently ignored the pleas of these victims.
"Our demands remain the same. Include all the people who have been affected, as per the medical check-ups done here, in the list of those eligible for compensation by the government, implement the 2017 Supreme Court verdict on endosulfan poisoning, urgently renovate the BUDS school was started for children with learning disabilities due to endosulfan poisoning, prompt disbursement of pension from the Social Security Mission. Iit has been 5 months since I last received my pension," says Muneesa, one of the protesters who led the victims in the secretariat march on Thursday.
Ever since the CPI(M)-led LDF government came to power in 2016, the endosulfan victims have marched to the secretariat over three times. Prior to this, protests were also staged in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but to no end.
In January 2017, the Supreme Court had asked the Kerala government to compensate over 5000 people affected by endosulfan spraying within 90 days. The court ordered the government to pay Rs 500 crores as compensation.
However, victims allege that several persons who deserved compensation from the government did not make it to the list of persons affected by endosulfan poisoning who had attended the medical camps set up by the state government.
"Still 1600 people are not on the list prepared by the government after the medical camp conducted to identify the victims in 2017. The number of victims attended the camp was 2000, among them only 1600 were not included in the list," Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Munanni, Secretary Ambalathara Kunjikrishnan had mentioned to TNM during a 2018 protest.
On Thursday, VM Sudheeran, former president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee had also joined the protest by endosulfan victims to demand the government to take action.