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P A Francis
Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

India has been allowing the use of endosulfan, a dangerous insecticide, causing a major public health disaster in some parts of  Kerala and Karnataka for the last 30 years. It is a 50 year old organochlorine pesticide used to control insects on food and non-food crops. Endosulfan is a highly toxic and relatively cheaper pesticide used currently in India, China, Brazil and a few other developing countries. In all, more than 80 countries have already banned or taken steps to ban endosulfan realising the health and environmental hazards it causes. The problem started in Kerala with the state owned  Plantation Corporation  of  Kerala started using the pesticide for aerial spraying of  its cashew plantations spread across 15 panchayats in Kasargode district from 1978.The pesticide is stated to have killed close to 1,000 people and caused dreadful disorders and diseases to at least 10,000 others in that area since then. Horrified by the suffering of babies born with asymmetrical bodies, stunted brain growth, oversized heads and undersized bodies,  twisted limbs reproductive problems and other congenital disorders due to endosulfan  poisoning, women in this region  had even begun to terminate their pregnancies in fear of giving birth to such babies. The pesticide, which is not easily degradable, is reported to have contaminated the soil  and water and found its way into the food chain. Now after several years of outcry from social activists, the use of Endosulfan in Kerala and in Karnataka remains suspended. Yet, the Central government has only ordered an epidemiological study to pinpoint the factors responsible for the health problems in Kasargode. Fourteen other expert studies had already exposed serious toxic effects of the pesticide on humans in the area.

But, the use of endosulfan is going on elsewhere in the country as the pesticide lobby is putting pressure on the Centre on the contention that it is the cheapest pesticide available to the Indian farmers. Punjab is stated to be one of the major users of endosulfan in the country today despite that the state  also started experiencing its harmful effects. Now, even after Kerala and Karnataka state governments  disallowed the use of the pesticide in their states, the pesticide is illegally getting into these states and is being used for crop protection by some misguided farmers. The repeated representations by the Kerala government and social activists seeking a nationwide ban on the pesticide is being ignored by the Centre on the ground that there should be more studies to establish its harmful effects. This is nothing but a delaying tactic by the Centre at the behest of the manufacturers of endosulfan and its formulations. Last week, an all party delegation from Kerala  met the prime minister in this regard but PM gave no positive response to the delegation. The Centre‚Äôs indecision on a critical health issue like this is on the background of strong opposition against the ban by the Union agricultural minister, Sharad Pawar. It is a national shame that the Central government is reluctant to take a right  stand on a serious issue like this  endangering the lives of millions of people. Now, a decision whether endosulfan should remain in use globally will be taken at the Stockholm Convention, scheduled to be held in Geneva from  April 25 to 29.The Convention had already categorised the pesticide as a persistent organic pollutant (PoP) in 2010 and if it still  fails to ratify the decision that could amount to perpetuating  a  grave human right violation.


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Satyam Apr 28, 2011 9:03 AM
The use of pesticided is always risky. The farmers should avoid the use of pesticides at the max level. But the question of hour is that Why these issues related to Endosulfan are coming just before the crucial voting on on Endosulfans in Geneva. The Endosulfan was manufactured and patented by a Europian pharma company. They marketed the product for more than 25 years. Why no body raised these threating concerns during that time. Now, three Indian pharma companies are manufacturing the Endosulfan indegeniously, few of the NGOs are making it a big issue. Certainly these NGOs are backed by a powerfull pharma loby of West. Obviously the use of pesticides should be reduced, but the timing and reasons of raising these issues are suseptible.
thomasvarghese Apr 27, 2011 11:44 AM
India must support the ban of endosulpfan because it is democratic country. It will not support anti social elements Our leaders have the courage to protect the peoples will otherwise our nation will face serious health problems.
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