On Wednesday morning, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy posted on Facebook announcing that the government will sponsor the education of Shruti, an endosulfan affected person. At first glance, it was a welcome move from the state government. But a deeper look and one can understand that the move was aimed more at damage control than anything else.
Battling against all odds, Shruti, a victim of Staghorn syndrome, allegedly caused due to endosulfan poisoning, had secured admission in the Government College of Homeopathy, Bengaluru. Six months back, the Kerala government had promised to fund Shrutiâ€™s education, but the money never arrived.
On Tuesday, Shruti's husband Jagadeesh tried to commit suicide and was admitted to a Kasaragode hospital. Stating the reason for the suicide, he said that he did not have money to pay fees for Shruti's education and the family was burdened with other debts too.
Concurrently, the Kerala government was also facing a hunger strike outside the state secretariat by endosulfan victims. The 9-day strike with the support of Opposition leader V S Achuthananthan in was called off on Wednesday evening after the government agreed to meet all their demands.
Celebrations after the fast was called off
The CM informed that a three-member committee will be formed to prepare a list of beneficiaries to which 610 more victims have been added and financial help would be provided to clear off debts.
On January 26, 2016, around 110 endosulfan affected people from 11 gram panchayats had launched an indefinite hunger strike in Thiruvananthapuram, to protest against the state governmentâ€™s failure to deliver on its promises.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in 2014, under pressure from numerous strikes and protests had promised to provide Rs 5 lakhs each to all endusulfan affected families. The government had also assured all affected families that they would be rehabilitated in accordance with the directions of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission including the waiver of bank loans.
According to a statement from the Chief Ministerâ€™s office, the UDF government had disbursed Rs 150.71 crore to the victims. But the affected people claim that none of the families have been given the full amount, they were just given one-fourth of the announced amount.
Whatâ€™s clearly emerging from both the stories is that the Kerala government did not want any more negative publicity and hence decided to help Shruti.
Shruti made news in 2001 when Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi chief photographer Madhuraj captured her picture. From then on, she became the face of endosulfan affected victims in Kerala. Shruti had just four fingers on both hands, her legs too were deformed.
Shruti was three when her mother Meenakshi, also an endosulfan victim, succumbed to cancer. Over the years Shruti has undergone multiple surgeries. She had to undergo artificial limb modification every year and her right lower limb was amputated.
With the government not following through on its last promise of giving money to Shruti, this latest announcement has to be taken with a pinch of salt.