Kerala Forest Minister Benoy Viswam demanded here on Monday that India should adopt a stand in favour of global ban on endosulfan at the conference of parties of Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants beginning in Geneva on April 25.

Addressing a press conference here, the Minister said that the Centre should end its “hide and seek” in respect of endosulfan and sympathise with the victims.

He said that the India’s stand at Stockholm should not be determined by trade interests. “The policy of Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar should not become the country’s policy.”

Mr. Viswam recalled that he had written to the Union Minister and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging them that the government should support ban on endosulfan at the Meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Convention. However, the Centre had ignored his call. It dropped out of the discussions at the Committee which had since recommended the ban.

He called upon all to join the protest and signature campaign against the Central government’s stand on endosulfan. He said that the Forest Department had suggested that estates of the Plantation Corporation of Kerala in the endosulfan-affected areas of Kasaragod district should be taken back by the government on expiry of the lease, and set apart for rehabilitation of the victims. This was only with respect to areas where the spraying of endosulfan by the Corporation had affected people. Central clearance would be needed for the proposal.

The general policy of the government was in favour of renewal of forest leases to private and public sector companies in the interest of the plantation industry. However, violation of lease conditions would be viewed as a serious crime.

He said that the Forest Department had opposed the Home Department’s move to withdraw the cases against proprietors of Merchiston estate in Thiruvananthapuram district. The Forest Department had not been consulted in the matter and move to withdraw the cases was taken without seeking legal opinion. Withdrawal of the case would affect similar cases before the High Court. Hence, the Department had a stake in the matter and it had communicated its views to all the departments concerned.