Slamming the Central government’s stand on the use of toxic pesticide endosulfan as leading to “a grave violation of human rights”, the National Human Rights Commission has called for a nation-wide ban. India should also agree to a global ban, said the Commission, which also recommended higher compensation for victims.
In its report submitted on Friday, the NHRC panel accused the government of ignoring the National Institute of Occupational Health’s study detailing the harmful effects of the pesticide on the health and development of children at a north Kerala village. Aerial spraying of the pesticide appears to have caused neurobehavioural disorders, congenital malformations in girls and reproductive abnormalities in boys. Following the NIOH’s 2002 study, the Kerala government had forbidden the use of endosulfan, but “this ban has been easily circumvented”, said the NHRC report.
When the Commission sent a team to Kerala for an independent investigation in November, they confirmed that medical disorders still continued in high numbers even while “the relief sanctioned by the Government of Kerala has made very little impact because it is meagre, irregular and sometimes siphoned off before it reaches the intended beneficiaries.”
At the international level, India was the only nation that voted against a worldwide ban on endosulfan at the last review meeting of the Stockholm Convention in October 2010. At that meeting the Indian government claimed that there was no scientific basis for a ban, despite the NIOH’s comprehensive study showing that endosulfan had serious and long-term effects on health and environment. Since the 2002 study, 60 other nations have banned the pesticide.
“When it claims a lack of scientific evidence, the Government of India is either being disingenuous or disowning the work of the premier institute of medical research that it has set up,” said the NHRC report. “Its directives to the ICMR to review its study implies that the Government finds its conclusions inconvenient.”
The Commission said it was “deeply troubled” by the implications of this stand and the consequences it has already had on human rights in India and other countries to which Indian companies have exported the pesticide.
Apart from a ban, the NHRC recommended that the government conduct a nation-wide survey of populations that have been affected by the use of endosulfan and help State governments provide relief and long-term rehabilitation, including the establishment of a centrally sponsored palliative care hospital in Kasaragod district of Kerala, where at least 6,000 victims live in eleven villages.
The State government has been asked to pay at least Rs. 5 lakh to the families of the dead and severely disabled, and Rs. 3 lakh to the other disabled, with financial help from the Centre. It has been asked to ensure that the increased relief is paid regularly and completely to the victims and their families, and improve health facilities for them.
The two governments have been given eight weeks to respond to the NHRC’s recommendations.