The mothers of endosulfan victims of Kasaragod district have temporary withdrawn their agitation; but the struggle continues both at home and against the government.
Assistance for life-long care of disabled, which takes most of their time, is still a trickle though it is far better than some years ago. Availability of treatment has improved over the years in the affected region. Some patients are now getting home based palliative care and physical therapy.
However social conditions remain almost the same, but for the marginal impact of the monthly pension of Rs. 1000 for the victim and Rs. 1000 for the by-stander. Many even find it difficult to draw the pensions as it is being routed through bank. The bank has no ATMs in the villages.
Though new water supply schemes had been announced for the district recently, no priority was accorded to the affected villages. Women still depend on streams and the traditional surangams which carry underground water. The chances of these being still polluted cannot be ruled out as endosulfan would remain in mud and sediments for long.
The decision of the government to give compensation recommended by National Human Rights Commission to 108 victims before Onam, just as a beginning, caused much heartburn among victims numbering more than 4200, as the others feared they would not get it. Compensation for 900 persons more is in the pipeline. However, the government is yet to order payments of 1279 mentally retarded victims for whom the commission had recommended Rs. 5 lakh each as compensation.
Besides, there are about 750 others whose cases are not covered by the order of the Commission. Of them, about 225 have cancer. Others have aliments affecting kidney, heart, respiratory system, liver and skin. They are not bed-ridden or physically disabled and hence the order of the Commission does not apply to them.
Though the Commission had proposed that the Centre should also share the burden of paying compensation to the victims, the Centre is yet to take a favourable stand. It did not clear assistance for State government’s projects for relief and rehabilitation of the victims.
Dr. Mohammed Aisheel, Assistant Nodal Officer for relief and remediation, told The Hindu that concerns and agitations over compensation was causing a shift in focus from treatment and rehabilitation. Some were even avoiding treatment for fear that they would not get compensation if their condition improved.
The issue of waiver of loans taken for treatment of victims remains a major demand of the mothers. The Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has only agreed to set up a committee to consider extension of moratorium on repayment of the loan. There is no indication that such a committee would look into write-off of loans, beyond extension of the moratorium till the victims get their compensation.
The Union Agriculture Ministry continues to take an adamant stand that endosulfan need not be banned in States other than Kerala and Karnataka in the case filed by the DYFI seeking nation-wide ban on the pesticide before the Supreme Court. This was despite reports of ill-effects of the pesticide from a few other States also and the Stockholm Convention adopting resolution for phased elimination of endosulfan. The Union Health Ministry, which possess data on health effects of endosulfan, is yet to make its stand on the issue known to the Court.