Led by its chief minister, Kerala came out on the streets on Monday to demand an all-India ban on Endosulfan, the pesticide that has allegedly left a trail of disease and death in the state.
In Thiruvananthapuram, accompanied by his cabinet colleagues, victims and civil rights activists, chief minister V S Achuthanandan observed an eight-hour fast at the Martyrs' Column outside the secretariat.
In Kasarkkode, the district worst hit by the pesticide, a mass rally was held, with many of the victims participating in it.
In a recent survey conducted by the state health department, 2,210 cases of physical deformities, cancer and nervous system disorders were identified in the six worst-hit villages. At least 200 cancer deaths were reported from the area.
Though Kerala banned Endosulfan in 2005, it is smuggled in easily from the neighbouring states — hence the demand for an all-India ban.
The dharna was timed to coincide with a convention that began in Geneva on Monday to discuss a ban on organic pollutants. At the October 15, 2010 meeting of the organic pollutants review committee in Stockholm, India had opposed the ban, saying immediate action would cause the country huge losses in agriculture.
Last week, Kerala had sent an all-party delegation to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention in the matter. "The Centre will open its eyes only after all states get affected by the pesticides," the chief minister said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday told an all party delegation from Kerala that a committee headed by director-general of Indian Council for Medical Research was looking into safety aspects of endosulfan, which has already been banned in Kerala. "Imposing a nationwide ban would require national consensus backed by scientific study," the PM told the delegation.
Singh, he said, had been wrongly briefedon the pesticide's ill- effects.
The government-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala had sprayed the pesticide on cashew plantations in Kasarkkode for almost 25 years to check tea mosquito. The aerial spraying had polluted rivers, streams and water storages, resulting in diseases and deaths.