Activists working with endosulfan victims are elated over the Karnataka High Court seeking more information about the victims on Thursday.
Two non-government organisations (NGOs), one each in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, are keen to assist the amicus curiae, appointed by the court, in preparing a report.
The activists said the court’s seeking of information is a very significant development. Dr. Ravindranath Shanbhag, president, Human Rights Protection Foundation, Udupi, said, “Certainly, yes” and said that the development was an important step forward. Referring to the visit of Vaishali Hegde, amicus curiae, he said it was for the first time that somebody (appointed by the court) was coming to visit the affected place.
He would talk to the victims, activists and record “the feelings of the victims and the activists.” Mr. Shanbhag forwarded a mail written by his lawyer to the media which said the judges were not convinced by the submissions made by the government and directed the amicus curiae to get in touch with local NGOs to submit a report on specific issues.
The issues are: whether there is a total ban on the manufacturing and sale of endosulfan; what are the problems being faced by the victims and what kind of treatment would benefit them; the amount of monthly pension each family would require; what are the systems that have to be put in place to make sure that the victims are taken care of for their lifetime; what exactly are the rehabilitation facilities that are required for the victims; whether the victims would prefer a monthly pension or a onetime settlement and what would be the costs of above measures.
The mail said the judges suggested that if the state did not take the matter seriously, they would direct the government to deposit the money with the court and it would oversee the rehabilitation process.
It said the next date of hearing is January 28. Sridhar Gowda, president, Endosulfan Virodhi Horata Samiti, said his organisation would assist the amicus curiae.
Refusing to comment directly on the direction of the High court to set up a fund of at least Rs. 500 crore for endosulphan victims, Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader said here on Saturday that they will not approach the Central government for more funds.
“It was after many years that the department received money for this. Out of the Rs. 70 crore we asked for, we have received Rs. 20 crore, which has been distributed among districts. The administrations have been told to send a report if additional funds are required,” he told presspersons.
He said that work was on to build up health and skill training infrastructure for the victims and their kin; while, they would discuss proposals to increase the pension from the existing Rs. 1,000 monthly.