People allege that endosulfan still exists particulate form in the environment

No pension on time scores of endosulfan victims suffer in Karnataka
news Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 09:15

“He has limbs but can’t move; he has eyes but we don’t know if he can see; he has a mouth but can’t speak; he has a stomach but we don’t know whether he feels hunger,” says Iniya, mother of 17-year-old Jibin, who is an endosulfan-affected person.

Iniya says that her child is as good as a vegetable. Iniya has come to Bengaluru along with 200 other endosulfan-affected people to demand Karnataka government to regularise the monthly pension of Rs 3000, which they haven’t been receiving for 6 months now.

Iniya and Jibin

Over 30000 litres of endosulfan was sprayed over 850 hectares of land for 20 years.

According to Sreedhar Gowda, president of Endosulfan Virodhi Horatha Samiti (EVHS), this is the case for at least 15000 people living in Dakshina Kannada district, Udupi and most of the Malnad region where cashew farming is widespread.

Dasharath, a social worker from Sullia taluk said that while endosulfan is banned in more than 70 countries, countries like China and Australia still use the insecticide.

“But their topography of the agricultural land is relatively flat, whereas most of the Malnad belt is mountainous. While the spraying copters would fly at a height of 200 meters in those countries, in these regions they flew at a height of 500 meters, spraying the insecticide not only on the farms, but also outside,” he said. 

Karnataka Cashew Development Corporation sprayed endosulfan aerially for more than 20 years until 2002, in various districts of Karnataka- Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, and parts of Malnad area. It affected almost 20 villages in the state.

 

Brittle bones and deformed limbs: NGOs and Independent social workers have tried to provide these people with specially designed wheelchairs

Although spraying had been stopped 13 years ago, people allege that endosulfan still exists particulate form in the air they breathe, the water they drink and the earth where they cultivate. They also allege that though they had stopped spraying the insecticide, the disposal system was flawed- apparently it was just buried in the earth.

 “I am scared to take my pregnant daughter-in-law to the hospital for scanning. At some point, we have to face it if the child is affected. Every family, which has at least one child with developmental disorder caused by endosulfan, even today fears that the offspring of those children might be affected,” said Mahadevi, who has four children, one of whom is affected by endosulfan.

People suffer from problems like congenital deformities, mental retardation and physical deformities. The bones are brittle that even a slight fall can permanently cripple the person.

Mahadevi’s third son, who is 33 years old now, has impaired cognitive growth. On being asked how her third child was affected, she said, “In and around 1982, people across age groups used to be excited to watch the helicopters spraying insecticide. Since it only happened in the month of December, people would go despite the government’s warning to not go to the fields. When I went to watch it, I was pregnant with my third child. I didn’t know what would be fun then could bear such horrific results.” 

30-year-old Prema. These people can be easily mistaken for children with physical disabilities as their growth is stunted.

Karnataka Health minister U T Khader, who addressed the protesters, said that Karnataka government has never done a proper survey to check how many families were affected. He denied EVHS’ allegations that around 1600 people were not getting their pension.

EVHS also demanded the government to allocate Rs 10 lakh for the cause.

Khader said, “The ministry needs funds to improve facilities and permanent care for the affected people. As far as data from the government is concerned, there are about 184 families that have not received pension and not 1600. It is the revenue ministry that has to allocate funds and not the health ministry.”

All four children of Hemantha Shetty from Kokkada taluk in Dakshina Kannada district are affected. However, his youngest daughter, Kamala (16) is relatively better off than her siblings, all of whom lack cognitive development.

Shetty's family: Kamala (in pink-green salwar kameez) is not severely affected, however, her right hand is deformed. 

When asked whether she takes care of her siblings, Kamla said, “I am not very close to Lokesh-anna and Archana-akka because they don’t stay with us. I only see them once a month.”

 Shetty sent two of his children Lokesh (25) and Archana(21) to a home run by St.Thomas convent, where they are taken care of. The accommodation is free of cost, but Shetty gives a donation once a year.

 Building homes at every taluk for the affected children is a demand of EVHS.  

 Chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Kripa Alva said, “Building homes are only a temporary solution. We must look for a permanent one. Building a home in every taluk could be a difficult call, but it makes sense for every district to have one.” Pension scheme for endosulfan sufferers was mobilised by BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje during Yeddyurappa government, when she was the Karnataka rural development minister. Puttur MLA Shakuntala Shetty has also been actively fighting for the people who are affected.

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