Belathangady, Karnataka: As a child, Shridhar Gowda, now 40, was taken to a cashew nut farm in Karnataka’s Belathangady by his teacher to see a small chopper spraying insecticide. Little did he know that a few years later, the same deadly insecticide called Endosulfan will become the reason for the loss of his eye sight.
Over two decades between 1980 and 2000, aerial spraying of Endosulfan wreaked havoc in three Karnataka districts – Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi – leaving many people with physical and intellectual deformities.
Mr Gowda, who was one of the many victims of Endosufan usage, has two per cent vision in his left eye and is completely blind in the right eye. He receives Rs 3,000 as pension from the government and has no choice but to depend on his brother for day-to-day expenses.
Like Mr Gowda, hundreds of other Endosulfan-affected people are threatening to sit on a fast until death from Saturday to demand better care from the government, akin to what was provided by neighbouring Kerala for the Endosulfan affected.
“Kerala government gave so many facilities – Rs 5 lakh as compensation, Rs 5000 as pension, nutritious food, medication and shelter, but Karnataka government gave nothing,” said Mr Gowda.
The state government started giving pension to the affected people after a Karnataka High Court order in 2011. But according to the sufferers, the request to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah seeking more help has not found any response and they have thus decided to go for an indefinite fast.
“If we write to the chief minister, the letter is forwarded to the health department,” said activist Manjunath.
While the health department has already given a recommendation on the nutrition requirements of the sufferers, the government hasn’t acted on it, he said.
According to the government, the current pension mechanism is working efficiently and any demand for increase should be taken to the district committee before they take a look into it.
“If genuine victims have a grouse, they can approach the district committees that have been formed and whatever justifiable demand comes in, can be considered by the government,” said Food and Civil supplies minister U T Khader.
Government estimates that there are 6,500 Endosulfan victims in Karnataka. In January, four members of a family, including two Endosulfan victims committed suicide in Belthangady taluk after struggling to make ends meet.