Thiruvananthapuram: The agitation demanding fair treatment and compensation for endosulfan victims was called off on the fifth day following successful talks with the chief minister at his official residence.
As per the agreement, financial benefits will be extended to those victims identified during a medical camp in 2017, after a medical examination. It was also decided to conduct a new medical camp for the benefit of those children who were unable to attend the earlier event owing to a hartal. Five hundred children will also be added to the list without applying the two-kilometer boundary principle.
Earlier on Sunday, the capital witnessed a grievance march to the chief minister’s residence on Sunday after previous discussions failed to make any headway. Parents and children agitating in front of the secretariat took part in the march.
The victims are paying the price for over two decades of indiscriminate aerial spraying of endosulfan by the Plantation Corporation of Kerala over the vast cashew estates of Kasargod district. Though the spraying was stopped in the year 2002 following a High Court order, the after-effects of the pesticide continue till date. Mental disorders, physical deformities, cerebral palsy, and other diseases are disproportionately high among children born in and near the affected areas.
The Supreme Court, in its ruling on the 10th of January 2017, had directed the state government to pay Rs. 500 crores as compensation to the victims. Though successive budgets had allocations of crores of rupees for compensation and rehabilitation (including 20 crores in this year’s budget), very little of it has trickled down to the victims. The protesters were also demanding the inclusion of all 1905 victims identified during the medical camp in the list of beneficiaries for state support. The government list which included only 364 victims will now be expanded following today’s talks.
Meanwhile, in an insensitive remark that received widespread flak, KK Shailaja, the health minister of the state had said that she failed to understand why people were exhibiting their children in these protests. Calling the agitation a farce, she added that the demands of the victims had already been met. Responding to this, Daya Bai, the social activist who was on an indefinite hunger strike in front of the secretariat, said that people needed to know that these children exist.
A group of thirty people including nine endosulfan victims and their parents participated in the agitation. Endosulfan victims have come out on the streets with their protests multiple times in the past few years and had gone back on each occasion after receiving assurances from the government.