Warangal, Kasargod, New Delhi, April 24: In Kasargod district in north Kerala, 28-year-old Shailini has had two stillbirths and her third pregnancy had to be aborted. Doctors have linked her condition to years of exposure to endosulfan.
Kasaragod in Kerala has become an overwhelmingly tragic Exhibit A for those who are campaigning to have the pesticide banned. Thousands have been affected with severe neurological and congenital deformities, as a result of 20 years of endosulfan being sprayed from helicopters on cashew plantations. Ten years ago, Kerala banned endosulfan. In December, the National Human Rights Commission expressed its support for a countrywide ban and asked the Kerala government to increase the compensation being given to those already affected.
India accounts for 70 percent of the global production and consumption of the pesticide.
Next week, at an international convention in Geneva, activists want India to endorse a move to ban endosulfan globally. A group of them met with the Prime Minister today. "He heard us patiently but did not g give an assurance or commitment to ban the use of pesticide Endosulfan," said Kerala’s Forest minister, Binoy Vishwam.
So far, the Central government has said that it is waiting for the results of a new study being conducted by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has also said that farmers need to follow guidelines for the usage of endosulfan more carefully.
Those opposed to banning endosulfan point out that is the cheapest and most effective pesticide available to Indian farmers. "Others say there’s been no substantive evidence of its alleged dangers. What is the proof that those people are suffering due to endosulfan? There have been scientific studies and committees that have said that it is not due to endosulfan," says Anil Kakkar, Director, Crop Care Federation of India.
Ramu, a farmer who grows rice in Andhra Pradesh’s Warangal district says he has to put his bottom line above any medical concerns. "I have been using it for years. It may have some harmful effects but then it works like no other pesticide. We need it," he says.
At the Stockholm Convention in October last year, India had opposed a global ban on endosulfan. It was the lone vote against whereas some 61 countries endorsed a ban.
This, despite a much-quoted 2002 study by India’s National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) that reported the hazards. At least two committees set up by the Agriculture Ministry have given the pesticide a clean chit.