Victims of endosulfan poisoning in Kerala on Sunday said they were calling off their strike after the Kerala government promised to include children affected by the poisoning in its financial assistance package.
Endosulfan is an insecticide and a highly potent neurotoxin that was sprayed aerially on cashew estates in Kasargod district. People living in over 20 gram panchayats in the district were exposed to the insecticide between 1975 and 2000. More than 1,000 died and over 6,000 people were affected by the insecticide.
“We are suspending our fast now,” Convener of the Endosulfan Action Committee Ambalathara Kunjikrishnan told Scroll.in on Sunday. A press release from the Chief Minister’s Office said the government will look into the victims’ demands.
The government’s move comes five days after 25 mothers with their disabled children from Kasargod district began a hunger strike in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram demanding justice for the victims of endosulfan poisoning. They represented thousands of victims in Kasargod who have been demanding financial aid, adequate rehabilitation packages and healthcare facilities.
On Sunday, the protestors marched to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s official residence after talks with the state government the previous day failed, PTI reported. MV Jayarajan, private secretary to the chief minister, chaired a meeting with the protestors. Vijayan later joined the meeting and assured help to the victims.
“Those who were below 18 years of age in the 2017 Biological Plausible list of 1,095 people will be included in the rehabilitation package,” Jayarajan said. “Kasaragod District collector will coordinate the process,” Jayarajan told the media.
Social activist Daya Bai, who observed a fast along with the mothers of the victims, said she was happy with the government’s decision. “I thank everyone who pledged their support to this just cause,” Bai said. “I just want justice for these kids.”
On Health Minister KK Shailaja’s remarks that it was not right for victims to “exhibit” their children during the protest, Bai said Shailaja lacked conscience and was cold-hearted, reported Hindustan Times.
Muneesa, a victim and an active participant in the protest, said the meeting with the chief minister was a success. “The chief minister responded to our issues in a favourable manner and the government accepted all our demands.”
Muneesa told Hindustan Times that only 287 people were eligible for medical and financial assistance in the government’s list.” It is turning a blind eye to the fact that there are 1,900 people affected by the pesticide,” she said.