Kerala to pay Rs 1,000 to over 5,000 endosulfan victims in Kasaragod

Dayabai during her hunger strike. Photo: Screengrab/Manorama News

Thiruvananthapuram/Kasaragod: A week after giving written assurance to social activist Daya Bai, the Kerala government on Wednesday decided to provide a one-time financial assistance of Rs 1,000 each to as many as 5,287 endosulfan victims in Kasaragod district.

Daya Bai, 82, held a 17-day hunger strike, demanding better treatment facilities for endosulfan victims. She ended her protest last Wednesday.

A cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, decided to give aid to those victims, who are getting pensions through the Kerala Social Security Mission, a CMO statement said.

Daya Bai had put forth four demands -- an AIIMS at Kasaragod, priority treatment for endosulfan victims in all hospitals across Kozhikode, a special medical camp to identify endosulfan victims, and daycare centres.

A day before she ended her strike, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the government has agreed to all of Daya Bai's demands, except for AIIMS.

Since 2017, the government has been giving Rs 1,000 to endosulfan-affected persons during Onam.

"But we did not get the money during the last two Onam," said Munisa Ambalathara, president of the Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Munnani, an NGO working for the rights of the victims.

In 2021, the government released the money during Christmas. "This year, the government might have decided to release the money as a goodwill gesture after the recent protest," she said.

Munisa welcomed the government's decision to release Rs 1,000 to the endosulfan victims but said it could do well if it could correct the messed up pension disbursal system.

The government released the pension from April to August in September, making the endosulfan-affected families wait for five months.

"The government released the September pension in the second week of October. Hope, the government will stick to releasing the monthly pension every month," she said.

But there is no clarity on the pension amount being released now, Munisa said.

When V S Achuthanandan was the chief minister, the government started giving Rs 2,000 as a monthly pension to people with intellectual and physical disabilities, and Rs 1,000 to other endosulfan patients, including cancer patients.

In 2014, the government raised the pension by Rs 200 for patients in both categories. After one year, it reduced the pension amount to Rs 1,700 for a large group of patients with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The decision was taken without the recommendation of the Endosulfan Cell, she said.

When asked for the reason, the Endosulfan Cell told the affected families that their pension was slashed because they were getting the disability pension of Rs 1,600.

The deduction was arbitrary, said Munisa. "I am still getting Rs 2,200. And I am getting the disability pension too," said Munisa, who is blind and also a victim of the aerial spraying of endosulfan.

So, now the government has three categories of patients for pension disbursal.

One category continues to get Rs 2,200, the second category gets Rs 1,700 and the third category continues to get Rs 1,200 as a monthly pension.

But the Endosulfan Cell has no government order to justify this classification. "As a member of the Cell, I have repeatedly asked for the government order based on which our pension was slashed. Officials told me there is no order," she said.

And then there are the "odd" or "isolated" cases.

Shivaraj (22) of Pullur-Periya panchayat is a patient with intellectual disabilities and was getting Rs 2,000 as pension during the Achuthanandan government.

His pension was slashed to Rs 1,200 in 2015. As a patient with intellectual disabilities, he should at least get Rs 1,700, Munisa said.

Since 2015, Munisa has been taking Shivaraj and his mother to government offices to correct the error. "But we are dismissed as odd isolated cases," she said.

The cabinet also decided to formulate a common framework for the salary structure of public sector organisations in the state, the statement said adding that the recommendations of the expert panel, which conducted a study in this regard, were accepted.

A decision was also taken to recommend to the Governor to appoint M R Biju as the new chairman of the Kerala Public Service Commission, the CMO statement added.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.