Sai trust to renovate 36 houses built for endosulfan victims left unoccupied for 4 years

  • Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust said it agreed to make the houses liveable again to avoid a delay of another year
  • Trust also offers to conduct special medical camps to identify endosulfan victims; camps not conducted for six years
  • Sai trust's AYUSH clinic in the endosulfan cluster closed down government did not supply medicines free of cost
Endosulfan victims
The houses were built in 2019 by the Joy Alukkas Foundation for Rs 2.5 crore as part of the Sai Gramam project of Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust. Photo: Onanorama

Kasaragod: Thirty-six houses built for endosulfan survivors four years ago in Kasaragod's Enmakaje grama panchayat are readying for another round of maintenance. This time, the bill is Rs 24.5 lakh. The trivia is the houses are yet to be occupied.

The houses -- each measuring 500 sq ft on a 10-cent plot -- were built in 2019 by the Joy Alukkas Foundation for Rs 2.5 crore as part of the Sai Gramam project of Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust.

However, the houses did not have road access, power connections, or road water supply. The government has now provided power connections and built roads and is working on providing water connections under the Jal Jeevan Mission.

But years of abandonment and moisture have taken a toll on the houses, said K N Ananda Kumar, founder director of Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust. "We will have to replace the front and back doors of all the houses, give the houses a fresh coat of pain, fix the wiring, waterproof the electric water box, clean the floor, and install overhead water tanks for every house," he said.

He said the trust had built a 25,000-litre water tank for Rs 20 lakh for the 36 houses. "But the government wants to install overhead tanks in every house. We will raise this issue," he said.

The PWD drew up an estimate of Rs 24.5 lakh for the renovation work and buying water tanks but the Sai Orphanage Trust has agreed to do the work. "It may take another year for the government to approve the estimate and PWD to complete the work," said Ananda Kumar. "We want the beneficiaries who are endosulfan survivors to occupy the houses as soon as possible," he said.

Work on 27 houses yet to start

In 2015, the Oommen Chandy-led government announced a housing project for the families affected by the aerial spraying of endosulfan in the Kasaragod district. Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust - Kerala, one of the biggest NGOs in the state, agreed to build 108 houses, and the UDF government allotted three five-acre plots in Periya, Enmakaje and Parappa villages.

In 2017, the trust built 45 houses at Periya, with the financial support of Cochin Shipyard Limited, which invested Rs 9 crore. The cluster has an amphitheatre, a children's park, an Ayush clinic, and a community hall.

The houses did not have road access, power connections, or road water supply. Photo: Onmanorama

In Parappa village, the government sanctioned five acres but it did not identify the land for the trust, said Ananda Kumar. So the work on the third cluster is yet to start.

In Enmakaje panchayat, he said the trust would renovate the houses and make them liveable in two months. "November 23 is Sathya Sai Baba's 97th birth anniversary. We hope to hand over the keys to the residents on that day," he said.

Sai trust offers to conduct endosulfan medical camps

The Thiruvananthapuram-based Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust said it is willing to conduct special medical camps to identify endosulfan victims in Kasaragod district.

The special medical camps, which should be conducted every year, were last conducted in April 2017.

Over the past six years, several children born with physical deformities and intellectual disabilities have been denied free-of-cost specialty care and monetary aid given to endosulfan victims and their caregivers.

In October 2022, ministers R Bindu and Veena George assured social activist Daya Bai that the special medical camps would be conducted by March 2023. It was one of the four promises the government made for Daya Bai to call off her indefinite hunger strike in front of the secretariat after 18 days.

But the government failed to keep its promise.

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

Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust's founder director K N Ananda Kumar said he would be writing to the chief minister offering to conduct the special medical camps. "The trust will bring in the doctors and conduct the camp according to the protocol set by the government if it gets the consent," he said.

The long delay in handing over the houses to the beneficiaries had forced the trust to drag the then Collector D Sajith Babu to the High Court. "Sajith Babu in an affidavit told the court that the houses were not assigned because there were no homeless endosulfan victims in the district," said Ananda Kumar. The apathy of the then district administration was telling, he said.  "There are hundreds of endosulfan-affected families without proper houses in the district. That's why the government proposed such a housing project," he said.

No medicine, Sai Trust's AYUSH clinic shut

The AYUSH clinic Sai trust was running for endosulfan victims and the general public at the Periya Sai Gramam has been shut for the past nine months because the government was not providing medicines, said Ananda Kumar.

AYUSH stands for Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy.

When the clinic was inaugurated by the then Health Minister K K Shailaja, she promised to provide AYUSH doctors and medicines free of cost, he said.

But the government only provided two doctors, who used to come every day. The Sai Trust approached the Tata Trusts for medicines and it sponsored the medicines for four years, said Ananda Kumar. "But last year, Tata stopped the aid, the doctors stopped coming and the clinic shut," he said.

The clinic needed medicines worth around Rs 50,000 every month, Ananda Kumar said, and urged the government to help restart the clinic.

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