Daya Bhai's hunger strike and the plight of Endosulfan victimstext_fields
Thiruvananthapuram: 81 years old social activist, Daya Bai's hunger strike asking the government intervention for better treatment facilities for the endosulfan victims of Kasaragod district for the last 19 days in the state capital has once against exposed the Left Democratic Front government's lack of interest in resolving it.
Endosulfan insecticide was widely used in the estates owned by the Plantation Corporation of India in Kasaragod. The aerial spraying of the insecticide had caused serious health issues in people who lived in the precinct. Several people died and children were born with deformities as a result of the use of Endosulfan. Incidents of such hazards prompted the Kerala government to ban the use of the chemical in 2005.
The meeting held between Daya Bayi, protest committee representatives and the two ministers deputed by the Chief Minister failed to reach a consensus after the government backtracked from the earlier assurances. The protest committee alleged that Dr Bindu and Veena George, minister for social security and health respectively, assured them that many of their demands would be fulfilled but the press release from the government did say something against the promises.
As the government seems to be reluctant to address the issue, the health condition of Daya Bai, who was on her hunger strike, has begun to deteriorate, prompting the police to forcefully shift her to a hospital, where she continued her strike.
Daya Bai started her strike, demanding that the government should provide better treatment facilities for the endosulfan victims, should include Kasaragod in the AIIM's list, start daycare centres for the children and start new medical camps to find more endosulfan victims.
The protest committee alleged that even though the ministers agreed on most of the demands in the meeting but the minute note from the health minister's office was found to have included corrections which were against the spirit of the meeting.
"In the minutes note government had stated that government would give 'priority' to the demands instead of promising to implement them," said M Shajarkhan, convenor of the protest committee to the Madhyamam English Online.
"We had discussed this with Daya Bai. After seeing the minutes, she decided to continue with the hunger strike," he added. However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a press conference said that the government had taken a favourable approach towards Daya Bai's demands.
He also claimed by reading out the minutes note that the government gave assurances over all her demands except AIIMS, as the state had already presented Kozhikode as the site for the Centre to the Central government. However, the protest committee termed the CM's statement as a misunderstanding.
They said that CM's claim that three of the four demands raised by Daya Bai have been positively considered is not true. They also warned the government that the protest would be intensified in the coming days. The mothers of the victims would come to Thiruvananthapuram to participate in the protest, said a leader.
After the protest committee warned the state government of dire consequences, in a u-turn shift in its earlier stand, the two ministers on Wednesday came to the bedside of Daya Bai at a hospital where she was forcefully admitted and handed over government's assurance in writing. Daya Bai stopped the hunger strike thereafter.
Despite the government's tall claims, there are reports coming out from Kasaragod describing the pathetic life of the victims and their families. Writer Ambikasutan Mangad posted a series of photos of children who were not included in the victim's lists – who later died without proper treatment, on social media after Daya Bai started her protest.
He also wrote about the parents who borrowed large amounts from banks for the treatment of their sick children and later fell into the debt trap. The Supreme Court had in 2019 pulled up the Left Front government for not complying with its 2017 order in which it asked the state to distribute 5 lakh rupees to the endosulfan victims as compensation.
It was only after the apex court gave an ultimatum the state government started to distribute the compensation. In 2016 Pinarayi Vijayan had visited the endosulfan victims in Kasaragod before he started his campaign trail for the assembly election.
But there is criticism that even after the LDF's continuation in the power in 202, the situation of the endosulfan victims is the same. Endosulfan victim's forum leader Ambalathara Kunjukrishnan has alleged that the government has not done anything to improve the situation of the victims.
"At Kasaragod medical college only the academic block has started. The government had appointed a neurologist there without any basic infrastructure. If the victims had to take an MRA scan they had to travel to Kannur. The construction of the Medical College has started in 2013 but is still not completed. The government did not give any assurance in the minutes note about this. This is the state of affairs in all the hospitals in the district," he said.
Kunjukrishnan also alleged that the Tata hospital which was started in the wake of the surge in Covid patients in the district is closed down. "The Government is not keen on conducting new medical camps to find out the new endosulfan victims who are not included in the list," he added.
Endosulfan Peeditha Munnani leader Santhosh had also criticized the government's approach towards the endosulfan victims and their families. "more cases related with reproductive, neuro and heart problems are reported from the areas where the victims are living. Yet there are no basic amenities in the hospitals nor the experts," said Santhosh.
He said that both the Left Front and the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) who were in power are responsible for the chaos.