Doctors at camps lack knowledge of disorders caused by the pesticide: activists

The Specialist Medical Camps for final identification of victims of aerial spraying of pesticide endosulfan have failed to evoke the confidence among activists who say that the process is being hurried through and is being done without following appropriate guidelines. While it is widely accepted that exposure to endosulfan could lead to a variety of disorders, many of them are being ignored, they say.

Sridhar Gowda from Kokkada, activist and an endosulfan victim, said lack of knowledge among doctors about the disorders caused by endosulfan was seen in the camp held at Kokkada. “Many women, who complained of frequent abortion, were given calcium tablets. The tests were done by postgraduate students and the whole screening was being done in a casual manner. He said: “I am sorry to say that this survey will not reveal the extent of damage caused by endosulfan. Nor will all endosulfan victims be identified by this exercise. The government is not serious about the issue. We will have no other go but to bring this to the notice of the Karnataka High Court”. No facility has been provided for bringing people with severe disability, who are bedridden, to the medical camp.

Activists fear that the process would not establish the real extent of the problems endosulfan victims have been facing. Even the doctors screening the victims in the camps, who have dismissed many claims, concede that the key criterion for deciding someone as being a victim of endosulfan is mental disorder. They said it was difficult to say with certainty whether other disorders in people had resulted due to exposure to endosulfan.

Activists have long been demanding that frequent abortions, infertility and cancer, among others, should also be considered as manifestations of exposure to endosulfan. They say the services of experts who have done research in Kerala in this regard where a large number of victims have been identified, should have been taken.

The medical camps were necessitated after the district administration in October identified over 5,224 suspected victims of the aerial spraying of endosulfan.

The camps in the taluks of Puttur, Sullia, Belthangady and Bantwal were held to identify endosulfan victims. The government has to submit a report on the camps held and its outcome to the Karnataka High Court on December 10.

Nityananda Pai, an activist, who has also been treating people affected by endosulfan, said doctors involved in the process of identifying edosulfan victims should have been given orientation by people such as paediatrician U.V. Shenoy and Mohammed Asheel, the head of the rehabilitation centre in Kasaragod, who have carried out research in the field. “An orientation by them would have helped doctors to identify various disorders caused by endosulfan,” he said. Doctors engaged in screening at Puttur admitted, “If we see cases of mental disability that makes a person practically immobile, we definitely say that it is result of endosuflan,” said Dinesh Kamat, Assistant Medical Officer, Puttur Government Hospital, Puttur. Studies had established this, Dr. Kamat said. “It is not so with other disorders,” he added.

A doctor said adequate time was not there to carry out detailed tests. Of the 1,500 persons asked to attend the camp at Puttur, 450 turned up on Friday.

Officials’ stand

The former Deputy Commissioner N.S. Channappa Gowda said: “No guidelines were issued in writing. However, a day’s orientation programme was held for doctors on December 4. Mohankumar, a specialist from Pedre in Kerala, spoke on the harmful effects that exposure to endosulfan can cause to human beings. A general outlook was given about disorders caused by exposure to endosulfan.”

District Health Officer O. Srirangappa said: “We tried to call specialists who have done research in the field. But they were not available. We have highlighted in writing about the major disorders caused by endosulfan such as psychiatric problems, blindness, and hearing loss. About infertility and frequent abortions, we have suggested more tests.”

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