Pensions delayed, endosulfan victims suffer during COVID-19 lockdown in Kerala

They claim that pension amount of ₹1,200 per person, a mainstay for many of the affected in Kasaragod, has not been credited for two months

The delay in payment of pension by the Kerala government for the last two months has made life difficult for endosulfan victims and their family members in Kasaragod district.

The increase in COVID-19 cases and the subsequent lockdown have confined them to their houses. Mounting financial constraints and lack of work during the pandemic have added to their worry. For many, the small pension of ₹1,200 they had been receiving was the only solace.

M. Chandravathi, a mother of a 13-year-old endosulfan victim residing in Vellikoth, says the delay in pension is affecting her expenses. Separated from her husband, she has been staying with her brother and taking care of her child who is mentally challenged. Though the meagre pension does not help make ends meet completely, it helps buy medicines for her child, she said.

Due to unavailability of medicines in the Kannur Government Medical College or the government hospital in Kasaragod, every month the medical expenses in fact cost over ₹2,600, Ms. Chandravathi said, adding that the house runs on the little income earned by her brother, a daily wage labour.

Dependent on pensions

M.V. Ravindran, a resident of Ajanur panchayat, said that the authorities should understand that unlike others, endosulfan victims and families are dependent on the pension for their basic needs.

"We already face a lot of health issues. Undue delay in pension payment only adds to our woes,” he said, adding that the victims of endosulfan should be given priority.

Mr. Ravindran said his son, a driver, is now jobless due to the lockdown. “Many other families have no other source of income. How would they meet the expenses with such a meagre pension, which is also not paid on time,” he laments.

A resident of Ravaneshwaram, 32-year-old Santhosh takes care of his two siblings aged 35 and 29 who are endosulfan victims. He works in a small private firm. But since the lockdown, salaries have not being paid properly, he said.

Different problems

“Each victim faces different problems. The delay in payment of pension every now and then is causing huge inconvenience. The government should take their cases on a priority basis and pay them the pension. However, all these pleas have so far fallen on deaf ears,” he said.

Many victims allege that the officials in the endosulfan cell for coordination and rehabilitation of victims cannot be contacted most of the time.

Social Security Mission

However, National Health Mission district programme officer Raman Swathy Vaman, said that pensions are disbursed through the Social Security Mission. “It is released depending on the quantum of funds allocated. But due to the present circumstances, there might have been a delay,” he said, adding that action had been taken in the past when such issues were brought to the notice of the mission.

When contacted, Dr. Mohammed Asheel, Executive Director of Social Security Mission, was unavailable for comments.

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