Some endosulfan-affected people will 'never be satisfied': CPM MLA C H Kunhambu

Udma MLA CH Kunhambu. Photo: niyamasabha.nic

Kasaragod: CPM state committee member and Udma MLA C H Kunhambu triggered an avalanche of angry and emotional outbursts from endosulfan-affected families when he said "some people will never be satisfied however much they get".

He was speaking to a private news channel on a discussion on poor healthcare infrastructure in Kasaragod against the backdrop of the indefinite hunger strike by activist Daya Bai (82) in front of the Secretariat.

Kunhambu said endosulfan victims are provided treatment facilities at Kannur Government Medical College in Pariyaram and a few super speciality hospitals in Mangaluru.

When he was asked whether it was not unfair to expect endosulfan victims in Kasaragod to go to Mangaluru and Kannur for treatment, the MLA said, "there is nothing unfair in that".

He said the state has started a medical college and a rehabilitation centre. "We (the government) are doing our best. But some people will not be satisfied, however much they get," he said.

To be sure, the rehabilitation village is not yet ready.

Later, Kunhambu told Onmanorama that around 6,000-odd endosulfan victims were given Rs 5 lakh each as compensation, and against the backdrop, there was nothing wrong if someone said some people could not be satiated.

But the debate was on health infrastructure in Kasaragod. "Health infrastructure should concern everybody in the district. Why are only endosulfan-affected people protesting for it," he said.

When asked if he as an MLA supported the cause, he said the party should take a call on that.

Daya Bai, Veena George, R Bindu | Photo: Manorama News
Daya Bai in conversation with Health Minister Veena George and Higher Education Minister R Bindu. Both of them made a visit to the hospital where Daya Bai is admitted in a bid to persuade her to call off her strike. Photo: Manorama News

For the past 15 days, social activist Daya Bai has been on an indefinite hunger strike demanding a time frame to start the medical college in Kasaragod, which is in the making since 2013.

She is also pressing the government to include Kasaragod as a possible site to set up AIIMS when it is sanctioned by the state. The LDF government has announced Kozhikode as the site for the project.

Daya Bai's other demands are daycare centres for endosulfan victims in the affected panchayats and conducting special medical camps to identify endosulfan victims. The government has not conducted medical camps for the past five years.

Though Health Minister Veena George and Higher Education Minister R Bindu on Sunday visited Daya Bai at the hospital, where she was recently shifted to, and promised to meet almost 90 per cent of her demands, the activist refused to back down until all her demands are met.

Volley of protest

As soon as Kunhambu made the 'insensitive comment' on TV, Aruni Chandran of Kadakam village in Kasaragod went live on Facebook. "If the government thinks the monthly pension and the Rs 5 lakh solatium are a favour, I will sell my 10-cent plot and house and return the money," said the mother of a nine-year-old endosulfan-affect boy who cannot sit, walk or talk. "My heart broke when our MLA said that some people can never be satisfied," she said.

Kasaragod does not have a tertiary healthcare hospital. The medical college has only outpatient consultations. "When my son gets epileptic attacks, I take him to the medical college. But the doctors cannot change the dose of medicine without doing an EEG. There is no EEG machine there," she said.

Last week, she took her son to the District Hospital because he was vomiting. "The consultation was on the second floor and the building does not have a lift. The children's ward where he was admitted did not have a toilet. The toilet was attached to the women's ward. I sat on a broken chair and changed his diaper. But the MLA says we are not satisfied," said Aruni.

She said she had utter contempt for the people of Kasaragod for making an "82-year-old woman from Madhya Pradesh" fight for a hospital in the district. "Why do only endosulfan victims need a medical college? Won't you fall sick? During the lockdown, several people from Kasaragod died because they were not allowed to access hospitals in Mangaluru," she said.

Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Munnani president Munisa Ambalathara, who is also a victim of the aerial spraying of the pesticide, was sobbing after hearing Kunhambu on TV. "I also belong to a CPM family. The MLA used to come to our house. In 2016, the party embraced us, stood with us during our protest in the capital, provided us with food, got us beds, and tied hammocks for our children. Today, he spoke like a stranger," said Munisa.

Writer Ambikasuthan Mangad said the Rs 5 lakh given to endosulfan victims was not compensation. "It was solatium given after the Supreme Court set an ultimatum. It should have been given in 2010 when the National Human Rights Commission made the recommendations," said Ambikasuthan, who was with Daya Bai for two days.

He said the family of Shamna Hassan and her younger brother Afzal spent close to Rs 30 lakh on their treatment because they were not initially identified as endosulfan victims. "But the government is listing out the money given to endosulfan victims," he said.

He said the people of Kasaragod were not fighting for their rights because they were scared of speaking up against politicians. "But endosulfan-affected people are fighting for the whole of the district," he said.

It is unfortunate the MLAs and the MP of the district are seeing it as a political issue and not as a people's issue, he said.

Ambalathara Kunhikrishnan of the Munani asked if the government would take responsibility for the victims if the parents returned the money.

The CPM MLA has shamed the district and endosulfan-affected people of the district, said Congress district president P K Faisal.

The medical college is run as a PHC, started, the district hospital does not have enough facilities, the Women and Child Hospital in Kanhangad was inaugurated in February 2021. But the building has not yet been opened.

"The CPM is interested only in starting cooperative hospitals and that's why it is keeping the government hospitals underdeveloped," alleged Faisal.  

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