Muneesa, a native of Kasargod Ambalathara, has been exposing the neglect of endosulfan victims on Facebook for five days from August 1. Muneesa, an endosulfan victim, is also a visually impaired person.
Muneesa TempleTime Malayalam Representative To Bhadra Chandra Speaking of. Highlights of the interview.
Bhadra Chandran: Muneesa, what was the reason for going live on Facebook. What is the current crisis facing endosulfan victims in Kasargod district?
Muneesa Temple: Endosulfan victims have free treatment at seventeen hospitals. But many hospitals are neglecting it. The latest example of this is Kripa, a native of Kasargod.
K, who was born blind, was taken to KMC Hospital on July 14 for a checkup. The doctor suggested cataract surgery. On July 21, the child was admitted to the hospital for surgery. The next day the child was prepared for surgery. But the hospital demanded a fee of Rs 25,000 before the surgery.
Knowing that there was free treatment, the child’s parents contacted the DPM office and arranged things. The DPM office then told the parents that everything needed for the surgery was ready at the hospital. Following this, the doctors told the parents who came to the hospital that the child could not have surgery and that the child’s health condition was not good.
However, from their interactions, the parents realized that the government had not provided treatment to the hospital for endosulfan victims. He also said that the hospital authorities were worried that the hospital would be delayed in getting the money even after the surgery. Later, she returned home with the child, not wanting surgery.
What do you expect from a permanent solution to avoid such situations?
Muneesa Temple: If there was a good treatment system in Kasargod district, we would not have to go to other districts and states and face such neglect. Kasaragod is one of the most backward districts in terms of health. Ordered in 2012 to sanction a medical college. In 2013, the then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy laid the foundation stone.
He also promised to start a 300-bed medical college in 2016. Nothing happened. Later Pinarayi came to power. The construction of the medical college is yet to be completed. To this day, the medical college continues to be a mere dream for endosulfan sufferers.
What is the attitude of the government and the authorities towards the endosulfan victims?
Muneesa Temple: During the 2016 elections, all parties came and made many promises. No one even looked back during the 2021 election. Moreover, no one even mentioned our name.
We never wanted to take this issue forward politically.
Several youth organizations, including the Women’s Association and DYFI, came to help the protesters. Moreover, former Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan and Congress leader VM Sudheeran were two people who stood by us, even though they had different political views. In those days, there was opposition to remember us even if the ruling party forgot about us. But today it is a no-man’s land.
This section has been subjected to great neglect by the former District Collector. He described the character of Mangalam Weekly as a young woman suffering from endosulfan who had been bedridden for 32 years and eventually succumbed to her injuries. He spoke on behalf of Ambikasuthan Mash (the author) who wrote for us and stood by us.
Later, the officers who were still under him portrayed us as characters. It is a situation where even the petitions filed there are rejected. Everyone is fighting for their rights by fighting with snow and rain. And then when they go to the collectorate, they call every single mother an extra burden on the government.
Where is the rehabilitation of endosulfan victims?
Muneesa Temple: One of the needs we have been raising for ages is to rehabilitate children and their families who are mentally and physically challenged. As part of this, in 2012, the then Kasargod Lok Sabha constituency MP P. Under the leadership of Karunakaran, a large workshop was organized with the participation of prominent personalities at the national level.
Later in 2014, an application was submitted to the then Minister for Social Justice MK Muneer. Subsequently, several workshops were organized but no rehabilitation work was done.
Varghese Joseph, the chairman of PCK, had said that 100 acres of land could be set aside for rehabilitation and three acres for the construction of a school for mentally and physically challenged children. However, the truth is that none of the authorities met Varghese Joseph and took over the land and started construction work.
Subsequently, 25 acres of land was acquired in Muliyar Panchayath, which had no facilities and no access to clean water, and the foundation stone was laid for rehabilitation in 2020. No action yet.
Parents living here are worried about their children. Their grief is that the children will be alone if something happens to them tomorrow. This is why there is a constant cry for rehabilitation.
Are the struggles of endosulfan victims continuing?
Muneesa Temple: The agitations that began in the 1980s continue today. Since 2012, there have been several struggles led by the Affected People’s Front. The strike was held in front of the Kasargod Collectorate and the Secretariat till 2020.
As the struggle reached every turn, many writers and social activists came out in solidarity. We have received small benefits as a result. However, at many stages, our petitions and government orders are flying in the wind and we have to go back to the face of the struggle.
The strike continued despite the inclusion of 511 children in the pension list a year ago and the failure to act for six months, demanding that they be given pensions even during the lockdown. He then took a photo of the children with his family and sent it to the authorities, who later received his pension a month later. This means that we can not achieve anything without struggle.
Does the cell for endosulfan victims work?
Muneesa Temple: The cell was set up to coordinate the rehabilitation activities of the victims. Mohanan, the then Agriculture Minister, was the chairman of the cell in 2011. Later in 2016, the then Revenue Minister E. Chandrasekharan was the chairman of the cell. I have been a member of this cell since 2016.
It was initially decided to call the members every two months for discussions. Initially meetings and activities took place but for ten months now no information of the cell is known. It would be better to say that there is no cell after the new government comes. Because when the government changes, so does the cell chairman. No such things or meetings took place this time.
Are endosulfan victims getting the Covid vaccine?
Muneesa Temple: Endosulfan sufferers are actually in trouble in the Covid situation. Due to the lack of hospital facilities in the district, children have to be taken to other districts and to Mangalore. Moreover, asking for the RTPCR result when crossing the border creates a difficult situation for poor families.
It is difficult for children and their families to get a Covid test done regularly as they have to go to the hospital frequently with their children. Four children died without such treatment. However, this is not news or anyone is looking back at the area.
It was reported that the vaccine against Covid would be given to people with disabilities and inpatients at home. But to my knowledge, to date no one has come home and been vaccinated.