Fighting the dreaded cancer for six years Kavitha (28) lost her battle last week. The killer had also taken her father’s life and caused her 32-year-old brother to be mentally challenged. In her family alone six untimely deaths have taken place in the past 10 years.
Aerial spraying of endosulfan, an insecticide — banned in Kerala since 2005 — continues to be used today and poor villagers of northern Kasargode continue to suffer. Apart from deforming people exposed to the insecticide, endosulfan even attacks neo-natal babies of Padre and Swarg, the two of the six worst-affected villages.
One of the most toxic pesticides in the market, endosulfan is a favourite with farmers because it is very effective. India is world’s largest consumer of endosulfan. Even our less advanced neighbours banned it long ago but our country has failed to do so.
In a random survey conducted jointly last week by Kerala’s health and agriculture departments 2,210 victims of endosulfan poisoning were found in six worst-affected villages. At least 200 cancer deaths have been reported from this area in the past eight years.
“Even the latest survey has nailed the pesticide. The Kerala government imposed a statewide ban in 2005 based on the high court directive. But since it is readily available in neighbouring states, it is smuggled into Kerala...,” state agriculture minister M Ratanakaran said.
What has really shocked the villagers is the apathetic attitude of the central government. At the sixth meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee meeting on October 15 in Stockholm, India opposed the ban on endosulfan. Adding insult to injury Union minister of state for agriculture KV Thomas, who belongs to Kerala, gave a clean chit to the pesticide.
“We are not animals. Every time we are exhibited before one committee or the other. Please don’t trouble us any more,” C Prema, mother of a mentally challenged boy, told HT.