Endosulfan victims stage protest; UDF flays Kerala govt for 'indifferent' approach


Endosulfan victims stage protest

Thiruvananthapuram: The opposition UDF on Wednesday blasted the Left government in the Kerala Assembly for allegedly showing indifference towards the concerns of victims of Kasaragod endosulfan tragedy and pleaded for a more "humane" approach in the issue.

The opposition's attack on the government comes on a day when the endosulfan-affected children and their parents staged a sit-in protest here raising multiple demands. The government was yet to implement the disbursal of Rs five lakh compensation completely among the victims, ordered by the Supreme Court, the Congress-led opposition alleged.

During the zero hour, they also claimed that the remediation cell, constituted to address and resolve the issues of the victims and their family, had been 'non-operational' for the last one year, halting all their rehabilitation initiatives.

Though the UDF notice for the adjournment motion was given to the Chief Minster, social justice minister R Bindhu gave the reply in the House. She detailed various programmes, implemented by the Marxist party government for the rehabilitation of the hapless children hailing from Kasaragod district, but admitted that the the remediation cell was not functioning for sometime.

"The rehabilitation progammes have been coordinated by the remediation cell. The steps to reconstitute the panel after the assembly election is progressing now," the minister told the Assembly.

She also said a total of Rs 171 crore had been disbursed among the victims as compensation and financial aid according to the recommendations of the panel.

Another Rs 16.83 crore was distributed as treatment aid and free ambulance facility was being provided for their medical needs. As per the apex court directive, a total of Rs 285.17 crore had been disbursed as compensation so far, the minister added.

However, leader of opposition, V D Satheesan alleged that the government was pretending ignorance of the issues and concerns of the endosulfan victims. "The state has created the victims and so it has an obligation to protect them as well," he said adding that the remediation cell was not functioning for the last one year and despite repeated requests, the government was not showing any interest to reconstitute it.

Appealing to the government to act beyond politics, he said it would take only 24 hours for the Chief Minister to reconstitute it. The opposition leader also called a former district collector, who compiled a report against the interests of the affected children, as the "agent of the endosulfan company".

Though their notice for the adjournment motion was rejected by speaker M B Rajesh, the opposition decided not to stage a walkout. Meanwhile, a large number of endosulfan-affected individuals and their family members reached the state capital this morning from Kasaragod, the northernmost district, to participate in a token protest demanding the speedy disbursal of compensation and implementation of various rehabilitation initiatives.

The day-long protest was being conducted under the aegis of the solidarity committee. The protesters were seen holding banners which read "Endosulfan victims are also human beings', among others.

After the assembly session, the opposition members visited the victims and their family at the protest venue in front of the Secretariat and extended their support to the agitation.

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. It had allegedly caused chronic health issues to several persons especially children in several areas of Kasaragod. The health effects of the chemical include neurotoxicity, late sexual maturity, physical deformities, poisoning among others.

PTI

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