The government is considering ban on red (extremely toxic) and yellow (highly toxic) categories of pesticides in phases against the background of mounting protests against pesticides in the State, especially in Kasaragod and Idukki districts.

Initially, the ban will apply to sensitive and biodiversity-rich areas and areas where pesticide use is intense. However, there would not be an immediate ban on pesticide use in cardamom and tea plantations. Prescription by an agriculture officer might be made mandatory for sale of pesticides.

In Idukki district, ban on use of red and yellow categories of pesticides is likely to come into effect for food crops such as vegetables, banana and paddy in Devikulam, Idukki, Thodupuzha, Elamdesom and Adimali. Minister for Agriculture Mullakkara Retnakaran has asked the Director of Agriculture to prepare detailed proposals in this regard.

The government has already decided to withdraw licences to sell red and yellow categories of pesticides in Kasaragod district.

The Drugs Controller of Idukki recently took action against medical shops for selling steroids and other allopathic medicines for agriculture use. Medical shops have been warned against selling medicines in large quantities.

Rules permit only sale of limited number of pills of certain steroids and that too only against

prescription. Steroids and other medicines are used in cardamom plantations to stimulate growth.

Meanwhile, protests are growing from within the Idukki district against excessive use of pesticides in its plantations and vegetable gardens. Trade unions, which were reluctant to talk about pesticides and their impact on the workers, have started coming out against pesticides.

K.A. Mani, president of the Malanadu Plantation Employees Union (CITU), said that the union had decided to oppose use of endosulfan which was coming under fake labels from Tamil Nadu. The Union also considered the use of monocrotophos and phorates as risky and wanted to discourage their use.

Cancers and several other afflictions, which could be related to use of pesticides had become common in Idukki district. Many had not realised the gravity of the situation. Hence, the Union planned to create awareness among workers. Ulcers, asthma, kidney diseases and gynecological problems were seen to be increasing among workers over the years.

Often, the workers were not using protective gear such as special clothing, field boots and gloves. Estate owners usually did not provide them. Even if the owners provided them, the workers were reluctant to use them, he said.

Campaigners like C.J. Joseph of Kattappana call for restrictions on use of pesticides. There was also need for better treatment facilities in the district, he said. Students of nearly 30 schools organised a human chain from Nedumkandam to Ramakkalmedu on Wednesday against the use of the banned pesticide Endosulfan. Swaram Samskarika Vedi held an exhibition of 100 cartoons by B. Balachandran on the theme of endosulfan at 10 locations in the district. Churches auxiliary for Social Action organised a march against endosulfan at Cheruthoni in the district last week.