Kasaragod: The district had come to limelight nationally and even globally a decade back when the plight of Endosulfan-affected people became public. A generation was affected with hereditary diseases and cancers of all forms as a result of the excessive use of the pesticide Endosulfan in nearby government-owned plantations. Kasaragod district will once gain host the fourth edition of a unique protest beneath a tree so that signatures are collected to express solidarity for the victims of Endosulfan.
The protest, titled 'Oppumara Samaram' (protest by signing on the tree) will be staged again from July 19 to 22, said the members of the organising body Envisage -- Endosulfan Victims' Support Aid Group. Earlier, similar protests were held in 2011, 2013 and 2014 for the support of the Endosulfan-affected. This edition of the protest will held at the same place, i.e., beneath a tree on the premises of Kasaragod bus stand.
In the 24-hour-long programme, writers, artists, singers, organisations, collectives of women and lawyers are expected to take part, said MA Rahman, one of the organisers. “Writer NS Madhavan will inaugurate the protest on July 19 at 10 am. Various sessions will be held during the day-night programme and will be led by film actor Alencier, writer CV Radhakrishnan, critic Civic Chandran, actor-director Prakash Bare and activist Leela Kumari Amma. The programmes will be held beneath the same huge shady tree where the public was earlier invited to sign on a white clothe wrapped around it. Now, we can collect signatures from across the globe through email and they will be instantly forwarded to the president, prime minister, union health minister and the Kerala chief minister,” he said.
The protest in 2011 sought a ban on Endosulfan globally and it lasted for two weeks. In 2013, the protest under the tree was held for the second time, when the promised amount for the victims, Rs 87 crore, as per the agreement between the National Human Rights Commission and Plantation Corporation, failed to reach them. The signatures collected from beneath this tree could force the authorities to release the first instalment of Rs 27 crore through the treasury account and very soon another Rs 26 crore also came.
In 2013, for the third time, the 'Oppu Maram' demanded a ban on the pesticide in India. The protest was supported by DYFI, 10 mothers of the victims led by Vandana Shiva and supported by Envisage.
Mainly four demands were put forward at the fourth session of the protest. The first was about seeking the release of Rs 200 crore to the state government by the Centre. The second sought the starting of an Endosulfan Compensation Tribunal immediately. The third asked for comprehensive palliative care centres immediately as per the 2010 directives of the National Human Rights Commission. The final demand concerned the sending of an all-party delegation of the state government to the centre to seek the setting up of both the tribunal and palliative care hospitals.
The Endosulfan poisoning of residents of 15 villages in Kasaragod district was caused by its prolonged aerial spraying since 1976 in cashew plantations owned by the Plantation Corporation of Kerala.