Snehaveedu, meaning a home of love in Malayalam, has been built for the victims of endosulfan in Kerala, thanks to generous contributions by a group of good Samaritans.
The day care centre is meant for people with mental disabilities, who are victims of aerial spraying of endosulfan, a pesticide, on the cashew nut plantations in Kasargode, the northern district of Kerala.
Sneham society, which has been running a day care centre for people with mental disabilities since December 2014, has now taken a step forward by building Snehaveedu. A 3,000 square feet day care centre for persons with disabilities has been built at Amabalathara, nine kilometers away from Kanhangad in Kasargode. The day care centre will be inaugurated by actor-MP Suresh Gopi on Monday.
The backbone of Sneham Society and Snehaveedu is Muneesa Ambalathara -a visually impaired woman who is herself a victim of the aerial spraying of the pesticide.
The Sneham day care centre has been functioning from a two-room rented house. The rent and other expenses including food as well as the van to pick and drop inmates were met through donations. A physiotherapist has also volunteered his services at the centre.
“We have bigger dreams for the functioning of Snehaveedu. If anyone is willing to help us voluntarily, we hope to provide the service of allopathic and ayurveda doctors. The service of an ayurveda doctor is already there, which was arranged through filmmaker Dr Biju who was a homeopathic medical officer of Kasargode,” Muneesa told TNM.
The 34-year old woman has been fighting for the rights of endosulfan victims and has been at the forefront to get compensation for them. Muneesa regards Snehaveedu as something more than a day care centre for people with mental disabilities. “Training for mothers of the victims in tailoring and farming is also on the anvil. Through this, it is aimed to give relief for the women from their loneliness at home and agony with which they have been fighting for years,” Muneesa said.
As per the Kerala government records, there are 5,848 endosulfan victims.
Sneham Society began a day care centre for people with mental disabilities above the age of 17 on December 8, 2014. The admission was for 12 people and eight persons regularly attended the day care centre. “We restricted the admission to those above 17 as Buds (school for children with disabilities) and special schools don’t accommodate them after that age,” said Kunhikrishnan Ambalathara, Convenor of Snehaveedu construction committee.
A non-resident Keralite, Anna Varkey donated Rs 25 lakh for constructing Snehaveedu. It was Suresh Gopi who got Anna Varkey associated with Sneham Society.
“Actor Kunchako Boban and Dr Biju have also made contributions to our Society. Dr Biju associates closely with us. Some of the students’ organisations also support our activities. Kasturba Mahila Samajam donated ten cents of land to build Snehaveedu without which it wouldn’t have been possible,” said Kunhikrishnan.
Also, a lot of other people contributed materials for the home. “People mostly contributed through materials such as cement and sand,” he said.
The 3,000 square feet eco-friendly centre has been designed by architect T Shyamkumar of Costford. The construction stone was laid in 2015.
As per the list of the victims prepared by the government, there are 257 completely bedridden persons, 1,161 people with mental disabilities, 985 persons with disabilities, 437 cancer patients and 709 dependents of the victims.
In March this year, the government had sanctioned Rs 56.76 crores for paying compensation to the victims. It was meant for those who suffered from various health problems due to environment and water pollution caused by the aerial spraying of the pesticide on cashew plantations.