A group of women, mostly mothers of Endosulfan victims, staged a silent demonstration here in protest against the recent remarks by Union Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas that the aerial spraying of the pesticide in the cashew plantations in the district need not have caused crippling diseases to hundreds of people in the vicinity.
The women, accompanied by their ailing children, demonstrated in front of the Head Post Office here, with their mouths covered in black cloths. They sought immediate withdrawal of the remarks by the Minister.
The agitators displayed placards which said the Minister's remarks were a shame on the nation. They sought his intervention to ban the pesticide, whose aerial spraying on Plantation Corporation of Kerala's (PCK) cashew estates, they say, caused undiagnosed ailments to hundreds of people living near the PCK land. Many, they allege, died after years of trauma. “Do you want to raise the toll by supporting pesticide companies?” one placard asked.
The protest organised under the aegis of Anti-Endosulfan Campaign Committee, which had been working for affected families, posted around 100 post cards to the Minister briefing him of their plight. Addressing the gathering, the Committee's Chairman Narayanan Periya said the Minister was wrong in asserting that the Centre had not received any representation from the State government seeking ban on the pesticide.
The O.P. Dubey and C.D. Mayee Commissions, which did not attribute the pesticide spraying as the sole reason for the series of mental and physical deformities suffered by the residents, prepared their reports without even visiting the victims in the 11 panchayat limits of the district, Mr. Periye said.
The Hyderabad-based National Institute of Occupational Health Committee and an expert panel, which included leading medical practitioners appointed by the State government, had clearly mentioned the pesticide as the sole reason for the diseases, he said.
The recently held Persistent Organic Review Committee in Stockholm was aimed at deliberating on the harmful effects of chemicals on nature and India's decision to oppose the ban on Endosulfan at the convention was strange when over 60 nations had banned it, he said.
Several office-bearers of the committee including M.A. Rahman, Madhava Panicker and K.C. Achuthan spoke at the protest meet. The Committee members said they would now intensify their agitation until India decided to ban the pesticide.