, by M. SAJID
After the successful completion of construction of 450 homes to homeless poor people across the state, Solidarity Youth Movement has announced another ambitious social service project – a model rehabilitation package for the victims of Endosulphan affected areas in Kasargode district.
Kasargode is the northernmost district of Kerala bordering with Karnataka. Arial spraying of Endosulphan in the cashew estates under the control of Plantation Corporation of Kerala using helicopters started in 1976, thrice a year. Now the direct effects of this highly toxic pesticide have developed into deaths, chronic illnesses, mental retardation, etc. More than 4,000 people have fallen victim to it. Many of them have lost their lives. Among the perennially ill, handicapped and cancer patients outnumber the rest. The depressing picture includes those with respiratory problems, still births, inborn errors like huge heads, genitical abnormalities, broken and weak bones, broken skin, mental retardation, etc.
Endosulphan is a highly toxic chemical widely used in our country as pesticide for agricultural and domestic purposes. Endosulphan (C9H6Cl6O3S), coming under organochlorines, is proven to be mutagenic, carcinogenic and toxic. It is completely banned or strictly controlled in Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Thailand, Israel, Philippines, and Sweden, etc. In India also a committee has been formed to look into the matter regarding the ban of this killer pesticide. But, as always, this committee has not met yet. After the onset of endosulphan crisis, the government of Kerala also appointed commissions, not one or two but 12. Sadly enough, no commission could ‘find’ any harm with this chemical. The influence of pesticide lobby was very clear, among the politicians and bureaucrats. Later National Institute of Occupational Health disclosed in their study that endosulphan content in soil, water, blood and breast milk of Kasargode district is higher than normal. CSE reports also certified these findings. CSE found out that almost 10 times normal is the presence of endosulphan in these specimens. The maximum allowed level of endosulphan in water is 0.18 PPM. In blood and breast milk it is not supposed to be present. CSF found that, the blood of Lalita (36), a native of Kumbadaje panchayat of Kasargode contains 22.4 PPM of endosulphan. Muthakka has got a higher count in her blood – 196.4 PPM!
These findings made the government to admit the hazards of endosulphan. The High Court intervened in the issue and banned the use of endosulphan in Kasargode. A statewide ban was imposed later in 2006 by the LDF government. The former UDF government did not take any interest in the issue. A rehabilitation project presented jointly by the district panchayat, environmental activists and NGOs was rejected by the then UDF government citing the lack of fund. The present LDF government paid the better attention to the issue. Chief Minister V.S. Achutanandan visited Kasargode and distributed Rs. 50,000 each directly to the relatives of 135 dead persons. The government has also announced a 50 Lakh rupees project for medical aids. But, the redtapism has bound the package almost to death. Moreover, the listing of affected persons by the government is highly partisan, careless and unscientific. Many people, even the recently dead children, were not included in the government list.
The situation in these villages is still severe. Stark poverty, collapsed homes, the destitute, widows, chronically ill children and women, mentally retarded children, patients needing urgent surgery, unemployment are the companions of these preys of poison rain. In the last two months, at least 15 died of this killer rain.
“Today we don’t have pure drinking water. Even the breasts of our mothers carry the toxic chemical. We should strive together for this voiceless society,” said Mr. Sudheer Kumar, an activist of anti-endosulphan protest committee in the venue of ‘Discourse of agitators’ conducted by Solidarity Youth Movement on February 7, 2005. Solidarity took the words of Sudheer Kumar granted. The Kasargode district committee started relief work soon. Food kits were distributed there by the organisation.
Now the state committee of Solidarity Youth Movement has come forward with a model rehabilitation project. The project focuses five of mostly affected panchayats viz, Enmakaje, Kumbadaje, Muliyar, Kayyoor Cheemeni and Pulloor Periya. Medical aid, housing, educational aids, employment training, counselling, pension, food supply, etc. are the most preferred areas of relief. The first phase of the project that may cost up to 50 lakh includes houses worth one lakh each at least to 15 persons, a medical centre with free medicine supply, an ambulance, scholarships, small huts, stitching and embroidery training centre, urgently needed surgeries of two children, wheel chairs, counselling centres, etc. Next phases will be chalked out according to the availability of funds. A documentary film is made to popularise the project and fund collection.
Responses from the people are highly encouraging. The mass fund rising was inaugurated on August 16, 2007 by receiving the first donation from Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. “This project has to succeed. Strive to achieve the goal,” said the icon of Indian judiciary. Many writers, activists, religious leaders, judicial people came forward to proclaim their solidarity with this project. A combined call was released in media to co-operate with the project by renowned personalities like P. Valsala, Balachandran Vadakkedath, Justice P.K. Shamsudheen, C.R. Neelakantan, Justice C. Khalid, P.K. Hamza Moulavi Farooqi, Father Robi Kannanchira, O. Abdurahman, Dr. N.A. Kareem, E.T. Mohamed Basheer, V.P. Vasudevan, Adv. Sivan Madathil, Advt. P.A. Pauran, P.K. Gopi, C. Dawood, etc. Fund collections in many places were inaugurated by receiving donations from eminent personalities like writer Sara Joseph, local administration minister Paloli Mohammed Kutty, Deputy Speaker Jose Baby, K.T. Jaleel MLA, Mammunni Haji MLA, musician O.M. Karuvarakundu, Prof. P.A. Vasudevan, scriptwriter Salim Cherthala, Muslim League leader and former education minister E.T. Mohamed Basheer, etc.
“The rehabilitation of this society is our social responsibility. It is looking towards us. The courage of Solidarity to take up this huge project is the trust the people have reposed in us. We request all in and out of the country to contribute to this noble initiative, especially in the month of Ramadhan,” requested T. Arif Ali, Ameer-e-Halqa, Jamaat-e-Islami, Kerala and P. Mujeeb Rahman, President, Solidarity Youth Movement.
Bank Account of the Project: A/c No. 13060100128510, Federal Bank, Puthiyara Branch, Kerala.
[M.Sajid can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]