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Of many lives caught in Endosulfan trauma

C.S. Narayanan Kutty
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K.V. Thomas to be apprised of the demand to ban it

Chandran, 24, and Sujatha, 21, represent nearly 2,000 people leading a life of trauma and misery attributed to Endosulfan. At such a young phase of life, they cannot walk on their own and have stunted physiques.

The Anti-Endosulfan Campaign Committee here will take them before Union Minister of State of Agriculture K.V. Thomas at the venue of international conference on coconut organised by the Central Plantation Crops and Research Institute here on Monday.

The recent death of Rabiya, 22, from a mysterious, undiagnosed ailment blamed on the pesticide, has been a shock coming as it did soon after India had opposed a ban on the pesticide at the sixth meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants' Review Committee of the Stockholm Convention in Geneva.

Nearly 500 people had died from similar diseases in areas surrounding 5,000 hectares of the cashew estates of the Plantation Corporation of Kerala in the district where Endosulfan had been aerially sprayed for over two decades.

Memorandum

The committee, which has been leading struggles for the cause of the unfortunate people in 11 panchayats, will submit a detailed memorandum to the Minister seeking his urgent intervention to get the decision opposing the ban reconsidered. The pesticide has not been in use in the State since December 2005 following the intervention of the Kerala High Court.

“We do not understand the logic behind the Centre's move not to oppose the ban when it had been proved beyond doubt that the pesticide had caused disaster … ,” Narayanan Periya, chairman of the committee, told presspersons here on Sunday.

“It is most unfortunate that the Centre did not pay heed to demands by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and Forest Minister Benoy Viswom impressing upon it the need for an urgent ban on the deadly pesticide. Unfortunately, the O.P. Dubey Commission, in its 2002 findings on the after-effects of the use of the pesticide on the cashew estates, and the C.D. Mayee panel did not find anything wrong in using the pesticide in the country, while Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, in his submission before Parliament in recent months, reported to have found nothing wrong in the pesticide use.”

Endosulfan has spoiled the environment of the district, blessed with 12 rivers, virgin lands and abundant natural resources in the lap of the Western Ghats, people say. Wells, rivers and more waterbodies and other natural resources have been contaminated. Even breast milk has not been spared, not to mention congenital ailments and physical and mental retardation.

“Can't you read the despair of the hapless victims and their parents? We do not know how long will they survive. But we are quite sure that they are facing a slow death and that could be any time,” says the memorandum to be submitted to Prof. Thomas.

Relief

The relatives of only 175 of the dead had got Rs.50,000 each as relief from the Chief Minister's fund. The process is on to grant the sum to the rest.

The State government had directed the affected panchayats to allocate at least Rs.2 lakh each for the welfare of the affected population, but only the Kayyur-Cheemeni panchayat has done so.

The committee alleged that some political parties had tried to exploit the issue to canvass votes in the local body elections. It had decided to intensify the agitation to get the pesticide banned. A meeting on November 7 would discuss strategies.

G. Nirmala, environmental columnist, read out the memorandum at the press conference. M.A. Rahman, documentary producer; P.V. Sudhir Kumar, convener of the committee; K.B. Mohammed Kunhi of the Punchir Arts Club, which coordinates the relief operations; and Shafique Nasarulla, Solidarity Youth Movement district secretary, spoke.

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