Beltangady:Endosulfan Affected Leading Hellish Life - Seek Succour
Report and pics: Arun Uppinangady
Daijiworld Media Network - Beltangady (SP)
Beltangady, Jul 14: A deadly chemical, used between the year 1980 and 2000 in plantations of Kerala and coastal Karnataka as an effective insecticide-cum-acaricide, has left telling tales of its strong after-effects in places wherever it was used. Out of a total population of about 8,000 in Kokkada, Patrame and Nidle villages of Beltangady taluk, nearly a thousand suffer from mental and physical disorders, handicaps of various degrees, blood and other cancers, heart diseases, dumbness, blindness, deafness etc. The insecticide has also been credited with rendering many women unable to conceive. Officially, two deaths have occurred during the last some years because of the side affects of endosulfan while unofficially, the figure easily crosses 60.
For controlling the insect called 'T-mosquito' that had been inflicting heavy damage to the cashew plantations, Karnataka Cashew Development Corporation had hired helicopters to spray endosulfan over 800 acres of its cashew plantations at the rate of twice yearly, for 20 years in this taluk. By the year 1997, ill-effects of endosulfan use started to surface. Children with bloated skulls, handicaps and problems never seen by the people there, were born. People suffered from skin diseases, cardiac complications, etc. After people launched an agitation against the use of endosulfan, its use was stopped after the year 2,000.
Workers who used to spray this chemical, those who were living there, cattle etc., started to suffer from untold miseries after the spraying of endosulfan was stopped. Endosulfan had deeply embedded into the soil, water, grass and other vegetation here by then and through them, it entered the systems of the human beings and animals. When people discarded empty endusulfan cans into the rivers, thousands of fishes died. People who ate these fishes became sick. Cows which grazed the grass either stopped becoming pregnant or died.
A protracted struggle undertaken by the people in Kerala for getting compensation for endosulfan after-effects, resulted in the government there extending various benefits to them. However, in Karnataka, the government has turned a blind eye to their sufferings. Departments have been shifting the onus on one another, even though the politicians had taken a decision to compensate for the losses earlier. The fact that Karnataka Cashew Development Corporation that was under the department of horticulture was shifted to forest department, complicated the problem further. The hope of these people is fading and many deem that committing suicide would be the only way to free themselves of this never-ending agony. Unless the peoples' representatives make a determined bid to provide some solace to the affected people, the families that have been somehow limping along with a glimmer of hope that the government will extend some assistance to them, might get disheartened. Their needs are genuine and the government should remember that the killer chemical had been sprayed by them on the people and their vegetation.
Endosulfan has been banned in many countries including Canada, Colombia, Venezuela, Sweden, England, Germany, Denmark, Singapore, Bangladesh, Japan, Indonasia etc. In India however, the decision has been put on hold, because of contradictory reports the investigating scientists had submitted on the ill-affects of endosulfan in the past.
The affected families have seen deaths, have shed tears for their children who were born with various deformities, many of whom did not grow up with age and remained burdensome dependent on their poor parents.
The endosulfan-affected people demand not less than five lac rupees as compensation to the families which have lost their members to this deadly insecticide, waiver of their existing loans, sanction of fresh interest-free loans, a treatment centre-cum-medical camp at Kokkada to treat and take care of the affected people, development of villages, development of Kokkada hospital where the only doctor is overburdened, etc. The people here are hoping that the government will do something for them to cheer them up, after a long, painful and dark journey in life. Will the government act and keep up the promises it made in the past?