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Measures to rehabilitate Endosulfan victims

By Roy Mathew

KASARAGOD, DEC. 23. The Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, began a new phase of his mass contact programme today by visiting villagers affected by the aerial spraying of Endosulfan by the State-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala Limited.

While the Chief Minister and officials were careful not to accept any liability over the Corporation "poisoning" 12 to 15 villages, a number of measures were promised for the healthcare and rehabilitation of the affected population.

The Chief Minister promised that the State Government would take up with the Centre the question of banning Endosulfan while implementing measures to enforce properly the ban orders issued by the State Pollution Control Board. It would also call for the rejection of the O.P. Dubey committee report. The Chief Minister also visited the house of a deformed and partially immobilised child at Padre.

Congenital problems

The victims of Endosulfan suffered from a variety of congenital and other abnormalities. These included cerebral palsy, infertility, gynaecological disorders, retarded growth, general weakness and other problems.

A silver ray was that the "poison" in the environment was slowly degrading after the corporation had discontinued the use of the pesticide in 2001. (The half-life of Endosulfan is 60 to 800 days. Some of its degraded products are also toxic).

According to K.H. Sastry, president of the Parent Teachers Association of Government High School, Padre, fewer children with abnormalities were born these days. He noted that many of the children in the school had learning problems.

831 identified

The Health Department has so far identified 831 persons in the locality with various symptoms. Of them, 130 had congenital anomalies while 115 suffered from mental retardation. It has also documented 115 infertility cases and 39 cancer cases. Growth retardation was noticed among 34 persons and epilepsy in 48. Eighty-four persons suffered from movement disabilities and 65 from psychiatric problems.

The Health Minister, K.K. Ramachandran, who accompanied the Chief Minister, told presspersons that the Government proposed to set up a rehabilitation and counselling centre at a cost of Rs. 1 crore.

The Government viewed the issue seriously and wanted solutions. There were problems in mobilising sufficient number of doctors and specialists, he said.

The Chief Minister told The Hindu that he would continue to visit problem areas.

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