The government machinery’s response to the continuing tragedy in Endosulfan affected victims was typical. Nothing was done on an emergency basis, whether it was for reducing exposure of people to the poison or treatment and rehabilitation of the victims.
When the government machinery lent a helping hand in 2006-2007, it provided more aid to the next of kin of the dead than the living. The aid also did not reach all the victims, even two decades after the effects of Endosulfan came to be known.
The government announced a solatium to the families of those who had died between 1995 and 2005 in 2006-07. In the first phase, the amount was given to 123 families. Of the remaining 453, only 45 persons had been given the solatium so far. Meanwhile, deaths are continuing to occur among the victims.
It took the government almost two years to set up the Endosulfan victims Relief and Remediation Cell at the district panchayat and allocate Rs. 50 lakhs for relief and remediation. Health surveys and medical camps to prepare the victims lists took months. The initial surveys showed that 103 people required tertiary medical and surgical care. Most of them received surgical treatment to correct problems, such as cleft lips and palate and correction of deformation of bones.
Initially, the surgeries were being done at the Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore. However, as it was found costly, patients were sent subsequently to the Pariyaram Medical College, in Kannur district.
About 240 patients were provided with wheel chairs, hearing aids, spectacles. Many of those who received wheel chairs are unable to use them, as their homes are not designed for their use. Though medicines for seizures and other psychiatric conditions have been made available through primary health centres, supply has not been regular.
As it stands now, at least 2000 more patients require advanced medical care and rehabilitation. However, there had been no allocations for this in the budget for the past three years. Madhavan Nambiar, Special Officer in charge of the Relief and Remediation Cell said that of the Rs. 50 lakhs allocated, Rs. 30 lakhs had been spent so far. Proposal for allocation of Rs. 10 lakhs more was pending because of objections. (The Officer declined to disclose what the objections were. They apparently related to implementation of earlier project.) About 20 patients were awaiting surgery. The Cell is a 34-body of government officials and civil society groups and its meetings are irregular, despite a decision that it would meet every two or three months. The Special Officer is the only official directly under the Cell.
In sharp contrast to the activities of the government agencies was the voluntary aid provided by Solidarity, the youth wing of the Jama athe Islami. It raised Rs. 55 lakhs in public contributions and spent Rs. 45 lakhs, to provide medical assistance, educational assistance, rations, employment training and aids for those with physical disabilities in five panchayats. It even built houses for families of 18 of the victims and is gearing up for implementing the second phase of their project costing Rs. 50 lakhs.
Its convenor K. K. Ismail Master and Secretary (Services wing) Muhammed Paladukka said that they had initially selected panchayats with higher concentration of victims. The second phase would cover wider areas including Bellur, Badiyaduka and Puthige. The organisation was receiving wide support and liberal contributions from the public.
Meanwhile, demand is growing that the Plantation Corporation should compensate the victims and that the government should pay pensions to the victims to cover their minimum needs. The pension was Rs. 110 a month from 2000 to 2008, which did not provide for their subsistence.