Use of Endosulfan: VS warns Govt.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM JULY 3. The Leader of the Opposition, V.S. Achuthanandan, has warned the Government of organised resistance if spraying of Endosulfan continued in the cashew plantations in Kasaragod district.

Mr. Achuthanandan, back in the State capital after a tour of the Endosulfan-affected villages, said the Government should ban use of Endosulfan permanently if it had any concern for human lives. The Government's response to the demand for a total ban on Endosulfan was far from encouraging and this showed that a popular resistance might become necessary to prevent use of the deadly pesticide in future, he said.

The Opposition Leader said he had seen heart-rending scenes on his visit to the villages where about 60 persons had died of Endosulfan-induced cancer over the last five years and many others were battling for life. There were many who had ingested Endosulfan from the local water sources and developed cancer, serious physical deformities, learning disabilities and disorder of the reproductive system.

Mr. Achuthanandan pointed out that at least five committees of experts had studied the problem and arrived at almost similar conclusions about the causes of the illnesses reported from the area. These committees were also unanimous that the use of Endosulfan should be banned for ever. The pesticide was first banned on August 29, 2001, following a study by a team from the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) revealed the harmful effects of Endosulfan.

This was followed by studies by teams from the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), the Dr. A. Achuthan Committee and a fact-finding mission from University of Philippines headed by Romeo F. Quijano of the College of Medicine, Manila. All the teams had found a direct link between use of Endosulfan and the illnesses of the people. Besides a ban on use of Endosulfan, the different teams had recommended immediate remedial measures in the affected villages, establishment of a mechanism to monitor community health and the local environment for at least 10 years and urgent policy reforms to ensure adequate protection to the people and the environment. All these recommendations had fallen on deaf ears, he alleged.

Mr. Achuthanandan said use of Endosulfan was either banned or under stringent controls in most countries. But the Agriculture Minister, K.R. Gowri's reply to his submission on the subject in the Assembly the other day was that the State could ban it only for 90 days. He had, however, been told by experts that the Health Department could very well ban it as its use violated Article 21 offering protection to the life and property of every Indian citizen.

Asked why the LDF Government had not banned it, he pointed out that the gravity of the situation had been brought only now. To a question whether the multinational company manufacturing Endosulfan might have influenced the Government decision to lift the ban on its use, Mr. Achuthanandan replied that he would not rule out such a possibility.

He added that the multinational company was powerful to buy both opinion-makers and decision-makers and he was collecting information on who all might have played a part in allowing continued use of Endosulfan.

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