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Endosulfan: UDF efforts on paper

After an initial spurt of enthusiasm, the United Democratic Front government of Kerala has slackened in its efforts to rehabilitate endosulfan victims of Kasargod.

The first step the UDF government took after assuming power was to double the compensation given to the families of endosulfan victims.

Almost five months later, the National Human Rights Commission has threatened to take the state government to the Supreme Court for not doing enough for endosulfan victims.

The Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy, had even said the state government would bear the treatment costs of endosulfan victims.

However, the fact is that no money has been earmarked in the budget for the purpose. An endosulfan victims’ rehabilitation coordination committee with the agriculture minister as chairman was announced. But the committee is yet to hold even its first sitting.

There is also an ad hoc nature to the entire rehabilitation process. The Chief Minister, while increasing the compensation amount, was dipping his hands into the Rs 5 crore given to the previous Left Democratic Front government by the Plantation Corporation. The various other benefits doled out were met from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

The reality is that the state has failed to create an institutional mechanism for endosulfan rehabilitation. A special assistance fund, for instance, has not been created under a separate head.The nodal officer appointed for rehabilitation purposes is still a mystery figure.

“The government order said a Dr Hashim is the nodal officer but there is no such doctor in government records,” said Mr Jayakumar of the NGO Thanal.

There is also confusion regarding the government’s stand on the issue. While the Chief Minister says endosulfan’s ill-effects can been seen elsewhere in the state, the agriculture minister, Mr K.P. Mohanan, says that the problem is endemic to Kasargod.

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