Health Department puts number of deaths caused by the pesticide at 15

The State government has, for the first time, acknowledged that endosulfan, the now-banned pesticide, has caused deaths and other disabilities in Puttur, Beltangady, Sullia and Bantwal taluks of Dakshina Kannada.

According to figures put out by the District Health and Family Welfare Department, there have been as many as 15 deaths because of the pesticide in the four taluks. The admission, which came in the form a presentation in Mangalore by the Department of Health, is contrary to the hitherto held view of the department that the connection between the deaths and pesticide has not been established.

The information about the deaths – also confirming mental and physical disabilities due to endosulfan – is among the revelations made in the report prepared by the District Health and Family Welfare Department. This was submitted at the first meeting of the newly formed district-level General Committee for Endosulfan Victims’ Welfare chaired by the District in-charge Minister B. Ramanath Rai on Saturday.

As per the report prepared following orders of Health Minister U.T. Khader, the department surveyed endosulfan-affected areas and identified as many as 2,479 victims of the pesticide. A survey conducted in November 2012 put the number of victims in the district at 1,907. “The process of identification was the same as the one done last time,” said S.B. Arun Kumar, District Malaria Officer, who was involved in the survey and made the presentation.

The revised list has classified victims into those who died, are bedridden, those with mental disability and those suffering from other disabilities.

The department has collected details of each victim along with the photograph. Of the total of 1,934 families affected by endosulfan, 73 families have more than two victims. As many as 161 “chiefs of the families” have ailments resulting from endosulfan, the report said.

Commending the exercise of the department, Mr. Rai said, “There might be some omissions. But it looks like the report is done in a scientific way.” Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat members pointed that some names had been left out. One member pointed that people from these taluks, who have moved to neighbouring Kerala, have not been considered in the present survey. To this, Mr. Rai said process of revision of the list of victims would continue.

Mr. Rai, Mr. Khader, MLAs T. Shakuntala Shetty, Mohiuddin Bava and J.R. Lobo, Deputy Commissioner N. Prakash and Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer Tulasi Maddineni participated in the meeting.

‘Publish the findings on web’

Sridhar Gowda, an endosulfan victim and president of Endo Virodhi Horata Samiti, who attended the Saturday’s meeting, said the list of victims of the aerial spraying of the pesticide released by the department should be made available on the official website of the government. The department should also give details of the yardstick used to identify the victims. He said the State government should provide facilities for scanning of pregnant women in the region to prevent birth of babies with deformities. He said endosulfan victims were in debt because of huge expenses spent on treatment.