The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events and/ or publicly available information. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Mithun K, MBA 2016-18,Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur
On January 10, 2017, the honorable Supreme Court of India gave Kerala three months’ time to disburse Rs 500 crore as compensation for over 5,000 persons who suffered from various deformities, health complications and lost family members after using Endosulfan pesticides in the state.
The author comes from the border region of Kannur and Kasargod districts in north Kerala. Kasargod, a sleepy,scenic, but sweltering hot district in north Kerala is famous for its art forms like “theyyam” and its rich heritage and historical importance. The humans nick named the place “The Land of Gods”. But even the Gods could not prevent the humans from committing a tragedy that will melt your eyes, a tragedy whose scenes will haunt you for ever, a tragedy which made a lot of mothers to bury their children. The villain is a chemical, christened Endosulfan. True to its name, it brought an abrupt end to more than 4000 lives in Kasargod, maimed a lot more. 70-80% of the affected people stumbled on this chemical and lost their mobility. There is hardly any treatment for this.
Cashew plantations in Kasargod were aerially sprayed with Endosulfan from the late 1970s. By the time the public pinpointed the villain, 30 years had passed. The spraying was done thrice a year, aerially, for almost one third of a century. It had permeated deep into the environment. The poor souls absorbed it through air, water and touch and thus the chemical began a battle, against their genetic system. Loss of memory, epilepsy, depression and skin disorders were reported. When cancer, the emperor of all maladies, attacks, it puts a hole even in a middle class family’s wallet. And it struck, not the middle class, but the poor huddled masses in these hamlets.
Classified as a yellow label (highly toxic) pesticide, India was one of the largest producers as well as consumers of Endosulfan in the world. And it took more than 10 years of legal struggles and studies before the honorable Supreme Court banned the production, use and sale of Endosulfan in India. Since the genetic system is affected, their progeny may suffer too. Their plight cannot be overstated.
The court order is surely a thaw in their battle; they will get some monetary compensation, but an entire generation was ruined by the greed and negligence of a few. Kerala is implored to set up a center for disbursing the money and for providing lifelong medical treatment to them. Please don’t waste any more time on this. Please build the centre in Kasargod itself and not in the administrative capital of Trivandrum or in the tech savvy Cochin.
It is a common sight to behold people agitating and marching for their demands in front of the Secretariat in Trivandrum, Kerala. People from all over Kerala. The author once stumbled on a group whose image is indelible; they were the Endosulfan victims from Kasargod, begging for mercy. Pleading. They were not demands. They did not speak about rights. Oh God, where are thou?
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