They are battling with diseases like cancer, physical and mental disabilities for years and some for decades. Every time they have to protest to make their voices heard, they have to travel from Kasargode district in the north of Kerala to Thiruvananthapuram in the south. Endolsulfan victims- those who have fallen sick following the excess spraying of endosulfan pesticide in the state-owned Plantation Corporation in Kasargode, staged a protest on Monday in Thiruvananthapuram, pressing the same demands they have been raising for years.
Their demands are to include all victims in the government-approved list for distributing compensation, implementation of the 2017 Supreme Court verdict. They held a fast in front of the Secretariat and also took out a march to the Kerala Legislative Assembly.
This is the second time since the Left Democratic Front government came to power that the victims protested in front of the state administrative headquarters and the fifth time in the past five years with almost the same demands. They protested three times during the tenure of the previous United Democratic Front Government- in 2012, 2013 and 2014; but in vain. Each time around 200 victims would take part in the protest, after an overnight train journey. Activist Daya Bai also took part in the protest and performed a play for the victims.
â€śStill 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. Another demand is to fully implement the Supreme Court order of 2017, and to give Rs five lakh compensation and lifetime treatment for the victims.â€ť Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Munanni, Secretary Ambalathara Kunjikrishnan told TNM.
The spraying began in the late 1970s and continued for more than 20 years. The diseases caused by endosulfan have been affected generations over the years- children are born with congenital defects. People in 11 panchayats and Kanjagad Municipality have been affected by the spraying in the district.
â€śThe distribution of the compensation is not complete even as directed by the State Human Rights Commission,â€ť Kunjikrishnan says, â€śThe Human Rights Commission directed to give Rs five lakh compensation for the families of the dead, for persons with mental disabilities and for bedridden victims. In total, there are 6212 people in the list. The compensation hasnâ€™t been given even as per the Commissionâ€™s direction.â€ť
The Munnani also demands for enhancing the pension. The pension of Rs, 2,200 hasnâ€™t risen since 2014. Another promise by the government as per the recommendation of committee led by P Aisha Potty MLA was to give a job for one family member of victims, which also remains unfulfilled so far. There was also a promise to give free ration for the victimsâ€™ families.
â€śBut since 2013 many of the victimsâ€™ families are not getting free ration and also their BPL ration cards were changed to Above Poverty Line cards. The stock of the pesticide is still there in three garages and dumped in a well. But despite repeated demands it hasnâ€™t been removed and destroyed,â€ť Kunjkrishnan says.
Mondayâ€™s protest will be the first in the days to come. From January 26 onwards, the Munnai will begin an indefinite protest in front of the Secretariat.