On JUNE 26, 2006, the Kerala High Court ordered that the Rs 50 lakh allocated by Kerala government for the victims of the pesticide endosulphan in the state's Kasargod district should be disbursed expeditiously.
Chief justice V K Bali and justice P R Raman gave the judgement in response to a petition filed in August 2002 by N A Nellikunnu, a social worker and general secretary of Indian National League, Kasargod, and three endosulphan victims seeking Rs 10 lakh each as compensation. There are at least 15 other similar cases pending before the High Court.
The court's order has complicated the matter. Shree Padre, journalist and activist, points out that the money was meant for rehabilitation of endosulphan-affected victims and not to be given as compensation as the court ordered. "Rehabilitation and compensation are different issues," he says.
Kasargod district panchayat president M V Balakrishnan Master agrees with Padre, saying, "The budget allocation was based on a project submitted by the panchayat. The project envisages treatment and rehabilitation of affected people. At least 20 of them require treatment in hospitals outside Kerala. Then there are cases in which medicine is to be administered at their residence because they are bed-ridden. I don't see how the amount can be utilised for paying compensation."
Besides, petitioners feel the money is insufficient. Nellikunnu says the Rs 50 lakh is a pittance when compared to the number of people who require urgent assistance. The court asked petitioners who were dissatisfied with the compensation to produce evidence of the damage done to their health or life in front of an appropriate forum to get more compensation. "This only means that we will have to go to the court again and wait endlessly," he adds.
"It is a pity that the government whose primary responsibility is to protect people's health has not taken any action forcing the court to intervene," says M Saseendran, an advocate who represents the petitioners.
However, with the new state agricultural minister Mullakkal Ratnakaran announcing in the assembly in early July that no endosulphan-induced deaths have been reported in the last four years, endosulphan victims cannot hope for any respite.