..... the pesticide endosulfan in the Plantation Corporation's cashew farms
Sunday February 17 2019
Rehabilitation a far cry for endosulfan victims
By Arjun Raghunath
: Rajeevi (in sari), with her three endosulfan-affected children, in Puttur taluk, Karnataka. (Govindaraj Javali)
: Two young endosulfan victims in their house near Kanhangad town in Kasaragod district, Kerala. (Arjun Raghunath)
A sense of helplessness sets in as one reaches a thatched house at Puthige Panchayat in the northern parts of Kasargod district in Kerala. While the wailing and screaming of a woman hits your ears from inside the house, a man in his early thirties can barely get a sense of what is happening to her. He sits idle, staring blank at the stream that flows silently in front of the house.
Siblings Chitharanjan, 31, and Ashwini, 25, who are mentally challenged and physically disabled, are victims of aerial spraying of endosulfan, a pesticide that crippled thousands of lives in the district. The pesticide was banned in 2011, about three decades after its extensive use on the cashew plantations of Plantation Corporation of Kerala. The residues of the pesticide seem to be found in the region - in water, soil and produce - that children are born with deformities and mental disorders even after eight years of its ban.
But the Kerala government is yet to acknowledge all the sufferers as victims of endosulfan poisoning. For the simple reason that they do not belong to any of the 11 village panchayats that were declared endosulfan-affected. As a result, they are deprived of the assistance that the government has offered to endosulfan victims. A visit to some of these villages makes one understand their anger and annoyance towards the administration. Hundreds of victims who are denied assistance under the support scheme for endosulfan victims had gathered in Thiruvananthapuram recently to protest against the government’s apathy.
The panchayats where the cashew plantations were located in Kasargod have been declared endosulfan-hit. But activists point out that since endosulfan was aerially sprayed using helicopters, there is no doubt about the chances of it spreading to adjacent areas through air. Another aspect is that most of the cashew plantations are situated at elevated terrains. Hence the pesticide could reach the water bodies by means of rainwater, rivers and streams.
Another undisputed fact is the pitiable condition of many people in the panchayats adjacent to the endosulfan-affected panchayats. Hundreds of people have mental and physical disabilities and deformities similar to those officially acknowledged as endosulfan victims.
One of the worst-affected areas is Puthige Panchayat, which lies close to Enmakaje in the northern parts of Kasargod, close to Karnataka. "For many years, we have been knocking at the doors of the administration. But they have been turning down our pleas without any humanitarian consideration," say Mehamood and Kunhamini at Seethangoli, 25 km from Kasargod town. Three of their eight children have physical deformities.
Renjith Kumar, the sibling of Chitharanjan and Ashwini and the sole breadwinner of the family, points out that the stream flowing through the locality comes from Enmakaje and hence it is almost certain that the people of the locality are also victims of the pesticide that was widely used at the plantations in Enmakaje. "Since my two siblings are bedridden, our parents are almost confined to the house to take care of them," Renjith told DH.
Pushpakala and Sreesankaran, a couple residing at Cherkappara at Pallikara Panchayat, near Kanhangad, has been under pressure from their parents to go for a second child. But they are reluctant as they fear the second child may also suffer the same fate as the first one, Akhila. The six-year-old, though looks normal, is mentally and physically challenged, and suffers from frequent seizures.
"There is no history of such mental or physical disorders in our family. If the authorities are still maintaining that many like Akhila in the locality are not victims of the pesticide, then they should be able to give a convincing reason," says Akhila’s grandmother Kamala.
Deformities, mental disorder and seizures are some of the common problems faced by endosulfan victims. A considerable number of them also suffer from peripheral sensory system disorders. "We had taken the child to several medical screenings for inclusion in the list of endosulfan victims. But the bureaucracy rejected the plea citing boundary issues," says Dhanya, mother of an endosulfan victim.
"We just have one prayer. At least give them the strength to move around for their basic needs. As they grow up, it will be more difficult for us to take care of them," says Khadeeja, whose two children are paralysed.
According to Ambalathara Kunhikrishnan, an activist fighting for the endosulfan victims, even the Kerala Government had initially agreed in principle that 27 panchayats and three municipalities in Kasaragod were affected by endosulfan. The National Human Rights Commission also shared a similar view. But the government is now showing reluctance to consider victims from adjacent panchayats. Former Kerala Chief Minister V S V S Achuthanandan and other Left Democratic Front (LDF) leaders had backed the stirs by endosulfan victims while they were in the Opposition Party. Now the party is in power but it is yet to take an action in this regard.
As per the government list, there are 6,212 victims but people estimate that the actual number is over 10,000. Activists point out that a medical screening by a team of expert doctors conducted in 2017 found about 1,905 persons were affected by endosulfan. But only 364 of them were included in the list of endosulfan victims. Over 1,500 others, including children and youth, were eliminated during vetting by the bureaucrats mainly on the grounds that they were not living in the ‘endosulfan-hit’ villages.
In 2017, the Supreme Court ordered the Kerala government to pay a compensation of Rs 500 crore to over 5,000 victims with around Rs 5 lakh to each victim [Scroll Down to read]. But activist Kunhikrishnan said that the government paid a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to only 1,350 persons and another 1315 were paid Rs 3 lakh each.
Following strong protests and indefinite hunger stir led by activists Daya Bai in Thiruvananthapuram recently, the government assured to reconsider the inclusion of over 1,500 persons who were earlier eliminated from the list. But there is no sign of confirmation yet.
The situation of those who have got the endosulfan-victim tag is not better either. With so many sufferers in the region, there should be more medical and rehabilitation facilities, feel activists.
Well-equipped facilities like BUDS Schools, which are free and open special schools for mentally challenged children of poor families, and Medical College hospital, with 24x7 assistance are more important than just offering financial assistance, say family members.
Of the seven BUDS Schools set up in Kasaragod for the rehabilitation of the endosulfan victims, only one functions from its own building and has the necessary infrastructure. All other schools are working from rented buildings and have minimum facilities.
Another immediate requirement is hospitals with specialist doctors. A medical college hospital announced in 2011 is just in the beginning stages of construction. The hospitals in the district lack specialists like neurologists. As a result, many endosulfan victims are depending on private hospitals in Mangaluru, which is around 60 km away, even for routine check-up. While rehabilitation and medical assistance are of utmost importance to the victims, the families are in dire need of assistance, said Mohan Pulikodan, a volunteer who works with these unfortunate people. Generally, one person in a family has to devote full-time taking care of the victims. But more assistance is required if there are more victims in a house. Most of.these affected families are financially weak and are in constant need of money. But so far, there is no proper assessment of the requirements of these families.
Deepa Peroor, principal of the Mahatma Gandhi Model BUDS School at Pullur Periya, said that rehabilitation programmes like therapies and vocational courses are helping endosulfan victims.
"We provide personalised training and therapies after analysing the requirements of each person. The main aim is to enable them to carry out activities of daily living. At present, the school is having about 85 students in the age group of 3 to 28 years. Vocational training on various skills like bag making is imparted to their parents," she said. Various NGOs are also running rehabilitation centres for endosulfan victims.
Dr Y S Mohan Kumar, who was one of those instrumental in bringing to light the ill-effects of endosulfan, feels that infrastructure development, medical and rehabilitation facilities are not getting the desired priority.
Sunday February 17 2019
In K'taka, victims battle social, administrative apathy
A cloud of dust trails behind the vehicle as it comes to a screeching halt in front of Rajeevi Poojary’s house in Buderiya in Alankaru Gram Panchayat in Puttur taluk. Rajeevi, 54, and her husband, Sunanda Poojary, 58, gather all strength to shift their three children Vidya, Dinakar and Dinesh, in their thirties, from the house into the van. From here, the van begins its routine morning trip of picking up endosulfan victims and dropping them at the endosulfan day-care centre in Koila, 5 km away.
Rajeevi works as an attendant at the same centre and returns home in the evening with her children. She is worried about the future of her children with the government delaying the implementation of a proposed permanent home for endosulfan victims. "What will happen to my physically disabled and mentally challenged children after my death?" she asks. Hameed and Maimuna of Kumbra in Olamogaru Gram Panchayat said they no longer had the will to fight with officials and access benefits for their bedridden son Mohammed Anees (15). Hameed says his many requests for a waterbed mattress had received no response from the primary health centre and the taluk health officer. He recollects that his neighbour’s endosulfan-affected daughter, Pushpavathi, passed away due to bedsores in September 2018. "We hear a lot of assurances for endosulfan victims, but receive none," says Radha from Uruva.
Though Akshatha has been identified as one among the 207 bedridden endosulfan victims by the district administration, the mobile medical unit with a physiotherapist has not visited the house so far, Radha says. In the information collected under RTI, district health office had information about only 159 such victims.
Most of the 4,000 families with endosulfan victims in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts are fighting a battle against poverty and government apathy. Though the government has released stipend, opened two-day care centres and facilitated cash-free medical care in private hospitals, a feeling that the government machinery has failed to address their problems persists among the victims and their caretakers. "The feeling is justified," says RTI activist Sanjeeva Kabaka. The data he has gathered over the years point to the government’s lack of will on making amends to the victims suffering for no fault of theirs.
After the Karnataka High Court’s final judgement in an endosulfan case in 2015, the government had pledged to carry out welfare schemes for ensulfan victims. Yet, hundreds of individuals with neurological disorders, congenital malformation like hemiplegia, among others continued to be denied of the monthly stipend. Not just them, some of those who were certified as endosulfan victims have also not received the monthly stipend of Rs 3,000. Yamuna’s two children, Mithun and Trupthi, were earlier receiving a disability pension of Rs 500. After being included in the list of endosulfan victims, only Mithun began receiving the stipend. District Legal Services Authority’s letter to deputy commissioner recommending release of stipend to Trupthi’s bank account received no response. According to information obtained under RTI by Sanjeeva in July 2018, DC had attributed the delay in releasing stipend in 102 cases due to glitches in the software.
A month later, the DC, responding to a notice from the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission, declared that the stipend was not released in 360 cases. In November 2018, DC had informed the nine-member assurances committee, headed by K C Kondaiah, that technical glitches had delayed the release of stipend in 426 cases. Despite hiring four mobile medical units, district health and family welfare department is unaware of the exact number of endosulfav victims who are bedridden.
Peer Mohammed Sahib of District Endosulfan Virodhi Horata Samithi remembers meeting different chief ministers as many as 25 times to get the five acres land reserved for the project in Alankaru. Now, he is on a mission to get funds for permanent houses for the victims.
Lack of facilities
When the government’s budget submitted in 2017 ignored the demands of endosulfan victims, which included a compensation of Rs 10 lakh, permanent centre in each taluk, Rs 2,000 pension for caretakers, a nurse specialised in palliative care in each village, Endo Virodhi Horata Samithi President Sridhar Gowda K along with hundreds of endosulfan victims and their caretakers had staged a protest in Kokkada in May 2017.
Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s budget has been a bigger disappointment, Sridhar Gowda says, and adds that Kumaraswamy during a visit to Kokkada had visited the houses of endosulfan victims and is thus aware of the problems. "I was expecting that he would hike the stipend which has not been increased since 2014," he rued.
A nine-member assurance committee of legislative council led by its chairman K C Kondaiah had directed district administration to implement government’s order on providing free ration to victims of endosulfan poisoning. The committee during an interaction with stakeholders in deputy commissioner’s office in 2018 also had ordered district administration to sort out last mile issues in providing healthcare to endosulfan victims by convening a meeting of super specialty hospitals. The committee had also ordered a joint survey of open wells and borewells.
The reports of High Court amicus curiae and other commissions recommending a permanent house for endosulfan victims to the government has been gathering dust.
~ Sunday February 17 2019
Many want to shed endosulfan-victim tag
By Arjun Raghunath
: Endosulfan victims in Kasaragod.
Even as pressure has been mounting on the Kerala government to include more persons in the official list of endosulfan victims, some victims are pleading for elimination from the list. Reason: the endosulfan-victim tag is affecting the future prospects of the family members in different ways.
In one case, the marriage prospects of a young woman from an endosulfan-hit family was affected because a member in the family was an endosulfan victim. So the family wanted to get rid of the tag, according to sources in the Kerala revenue department that prepares the official list of victims. Another youth’s efforts to seek a job abroad has been hit owing to the endosulfan tag. Being enlisted as endosulfan victim, he is not getting medical clearance to the country he desires to go.
More pitiable is the plight of a couple. The wife had several miscarriages as she was an endosulfan victim. Hence, the couple decided to adopt a child. The adoption procedures prescribe that the prospective adoptive parents should be medically fit. The couple also approached the Kasargod district collectorate to eliminate them from the list and get a medical fitness certificate.
A senior official told DH, on the condition of anonymity, that though these pleas to eliminate from the list of endosulfan victims deserved humanitarian consideration, there is no provision now to eliminate a person from the list. The government will have to take a call on the matter.
Meanwhile, the endosulfan cell at Kasargod district collectorate is flooded with applications for inclusion in the official list of endosulfan victims so as to get benefits like pension.
"The government has to bring in foolproof guidelines on the parameters in black and white for considering one as an endosulfan victim. Though various proposals in this regard were mooted, there were no further initiatives," a state revenue department official said.
Mohanan Pulikodan, an activist who worked with endosulfan victims, said that a lot of manipulations could have happened in the name of endosulfan victims. A good number of ineligible people managed to enter the list, while many deserving persons were not. There were even husbands, who once deserted their wife for giving birth to a child with deformities, later aligning with them eyeing the financial assistance received by endosulfan victims, he said.
Tuesday January 30, 2018
Mothers with endosulfan-hit kids protest outside Kerala Secretariat
Press Trust of India, Thiruvananthapuram:
A woman holds a child affected by endosulfan. (DH file photo)
Mothers with their endosulfan-hit children staged a 'dharna' in front of the Secretariat here demanding speedy disbursal of compensation and implementation of the rehabilitation package.
At least 300 members of the endosulfan-affected children reached the state capital this morning from Kasaragod, the northernmost district, to participate in the token protest. Social activist Daya Bai inaugurated the sit-in protest along with former minister and CPI leader, Binoy Vishwam. Those identified as victims in the medical camps should also find a place in the beneficiary list, they said adding if the Kerala government fails to find a solution, an indefinite agitation would be launched from March 15.
The Supreme Court had in January last year directed the state government to disburse compensation and rehabilitation package for endosulfan pesticide victims within 3 months. A bench headed by then Chief Justice J S Khehar had ordered the government to provide a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of persons who died following exposure to the pesticide and those who became bed-ridden or mentally-challenged.
The order had been passed on a petition by CPI(M)'s youth wing Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) seeking country-wide ban on sale and production of endosulfan in its present form or any other derivative in the market. Endosulfan, an off-patent organochlorine insecticide and acaricide, was used widely on crops like cashew, cotton, tea, paddy, fruits and others until 2011, when the Supreme Court banned its production and distribution.
The health effects of the chemical include neurotoxicity, late sexual maturity, physical deformities, poisoning among others.
Tuesday December 12, 2017
Endosulfan: SC issues notice to Kerala govt.
By Krishnadas Rajagopal
A file photo of protest by families of endosulfan victims raising various demands in Kasaragod, Kerala. (K. VINAYA KUMAR)
NEW DELHI: Petition alleges wilful disobedience by State administration
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on a contempt of court petition filed by Endosulfan victims of Kerala for not complying with a January 2017 order of the court to disburse the entire compensation to all those who had been affected by the toxic pesticide within three months.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra asked the State government to respond to the petition alleging "wilful disobedience" on the part of the Kerala government in complying with the Supreme Court order of January 10, 2017. The contempt petition arraigns Kerala Chief Secretary K.M. Abraham as party.
Besides the plea to initiate contempt of court action, the victims from Kerala’s most affected northern district of Kasargod have urged the court to direct the Chief Secretary to "disburse Rs. 5 lakh to the petitioners and to all other families of Endosulfan victims in the State of Kerala forthwith."
The victims, represented by advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and Suvidutt M.S., said that even a list prepared by the State government of victims entitled to get Rs. 5 lakh compensation came to around 6,000 persons. But, they contend, that there are several or numerous more victims, who have not been included in this list and are unable to pay for medical care.
These unnamed, forgotten victims continued to be in dire straits despite the Supreme Court order of January 10, which had specifically directed the State government "to release the entire undisbursed payment of compensation, quantified as Rs. 5 lakhs each, to all the affected persons, within three months from today."
"Thousands of children already lost their lives due to the non-availability of proper medical care. The economic backwardness of the area prevents the persons like petitioners from giving proper care to their children on time," the contempt petition said.
The State could not limit disbursement of the amount only to the persons included in the list maintained by it, the petition said.
In January, the Kerala government said it had earmarked over Rs. 180 crore for payment of compensation to victims, some of whom were terminally ill. It had said the Endosulfan rehabilitation scheme, including a multi-specialty hospital, would ideally cost over Rs. 500 crore.