The Endosulfan Victims' Rights Convention held here has urged the Union government to enforce a complete ban on the pesticide. It also asked the authorities concerned to declare a comprehensive rehabilitation and financial package to the families of Endosulfan victims.
India should review its stand on Endosulfan at the recently held sixth meeting of Persistent Organic Pollutants' Review Committee (POPRC) of the Stockholm Convention and enforce a complete ban on the deadly pesticide whose aerial spraying in the cashew estates of Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK) in Kasaragod district is suspected to have caused undiagnosed diseases among hundreds of people, forcing them to lead a prolonged life of trauma and agony, the convention said.
Addressing the convention here on Saturday, senior Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran said the administration had the responsibility to ensure the best possible medical care to the victims' family members. “We cannot predict how far medicine can give solace to the mysterious and undiagnosed deformities. But the victims should be ensured the best possible medical care and the government which allowed the use of the now banned pesticide cannot absolve itself of its responsibilities from providing the required assistance to the victims,” Mr. Sudheeran said.
The government should also be prepared to announce financial and other rehabilitation packages to mitigate the plight of the family members, he said at the function hosted jointly by the State unit of the Indian Lawyers Congress (ILC), a legal wing of the Congress party, and other agencies which have been relentlessly fighting the cause of the hapless family members of the victims.
The government should also set up a tribunal to decide on the compensation packages besides banning the production, marketing and use of the pesticide in the country as it has serious social and human ramifications, he said.
Mr. Sudheeran, who pledged his unequivocal support for the cause of the suspected Endosulfan victims, said the Kerala government should convene an all-party meeting comprising MPs from the State, representatives of non-governmental agencies, including the district-based Anti-Endosulfan Campaign Committee, to have a proper assessment of the situation before the Pesticide Management Bill is brought before Parliament in the winter session.
On the Union Environment Ministry decision to constitute yet another panel to re-assess the situation arising out of the pesticide spraying in the 12 panchayat limits of the district, Mr. Sudheeran said he did not think the proposal had much relevance since it would be quite difficult to study the situation as the residues of the banned pesticide might have disappeared slowly. The new commission should rather re-examine the report of the Commission headed by P.K. Sivaraman, former Additional Director of Health, which was submitted to the State government in 2003. The report had found “high levels of Endosulfan residue in the blood samples of the schoolchildren of the area, indicating long time exposure to the pesticide.”
The new panel can also go through the report submitted by the Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Occupational Hazards (NIOH), which had also cited the two-decade long aerial spraying as the sole reason for the serious health hazards to the victims' families staying close to the cashew estates of Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK) in about 12 panchayat limits of the northern most district of Kerala.
The Rights Convention in a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought permanent ban on the manufacture, sale and use of Endosulfan in any form or in any manner in the country.
It also asked the Centre to review India's stand on Endosulfan at the recently concluded Stockholm convention.
The memorandum also suggested constitution of a Tribunal for identification of the deceased and the surviving victims, who are afflicted with mysterious and undiagnosed diseases.
The memorandum, copies of which were forwarded to Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, Forest Minister Benoy Viswom and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, also sought prosecution of the officials of the PCK and others, who were responsible for violation of safety rules prescribed for the aerial spraying of Endosulfan.
Among other demands made in the memorandum are free medical facilities to the victims in government and private hospitals, provision of jobs to the legal heirs of the victims who succumbed to diseases suspected to be caused by spraying of the pesticide, rehabilitation of the victims suffering from mental and physical abnormalities and disbursal of pension and setting up of special schools for surviving victims in affected areas.