Ban on Endosulfan: Joy, relief in Kerala

published on April 29, 2011

VR Jayaraj | Kochi – Daily Pioneer

“I can see a bright smile blossoming on the lips of the mothers of Kasaragod,” was how Prof MA Rahman, frontline activist in the long struggle against Endosulfan, responded on Friday to the news from Geneva that the meeting of the Stockholm Convention of the Review Committee on Persistent Organic Pollutants had decided to ban the killer pesticide globally.

Kasaragod has the largest number of Endosulfan victims in the world. Close to 1,000 people have already died and about 10,000 have contracted mysterious diseases due to Endosulfan poisoning there. “This is the moment I was waiting for in my whole life,” said Narayani, a 27-year-old pesticide victim in Perla, Kasaragod.

In Kasaragod town and many other places, people celebrated the decision of the Geneva meet by exchanging greetings and distributing sweets. “This is the victory of the victims over their persecutors. Till the other day, the Centre was against a ban and today they had to succumb to the power of the weak,” said Mohandas, a shopkeeper in Kochi.

The Geneva session’s success in taking the decision is – in a sense – the success of Kerala, which was the one society in the world that put up the fiercest, united and most patient agitation against the killer pesticide when the UPA Government in the Centre seemed determined to protect the interests of the pesticide manufacturers.

“The people’s will has defeated the designs of the pesticides lobby,” said Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who at the age of 87, observed daylong fast on Monday demanding ban on the pesticide. “This was a struggle against the poison called Endosulfan. I am happy that it has succeeded. I congratulate the Stockholm Convention on this and also all those who worked to achieve this goal,” he said.

Achuthanandan said that the reports on and pictures of the tragedy Endosulfan had caused in Kasaragod had helped a lot in convincing the member countries of the Stockholm Convention of the need of global ban on it. Kerala’s agitation and the Chief Minister’s own fast had become big news at the venue of the five-day Geneva meet.

Kerala’s Health Minister PK Sreemathi said, “This is the victory of people’s will against the evil stubbornness of the Centre.” Even when an all-party delegation from the State under her leadership met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week, he had said that a ban was impossible till the results of a new study on the hazards of the pesticide received, she pointed out.

Reports from Geneva said that the united, fierce and patient protests in Kerala had played a very significant role in intensifying the demand for ban and making the Review Committee harden its stand against the Indian Government’s repeated refusal to endorse any decision that could affect the pesticide manufacturers’ interests.

O Rajagopal, senior leader of the BJP which had actively taken part in the agitation against Endosulfan, said that India was forced to change its stand under pressure from within the country and outside. “India should have taken the lead in the call for a ban. But the stand the Centre adopted made us lose that opportunity and we were made to succumb to pressure,” he said.

Poet Sugathakumari, who fasted on Monday with Achuthanandan for the cause, said, “I feel proud, happy and relieved that this poison will not kill our children anymore,” adding that Kerala had set an example of moral strength through the struggle against Endosulfan.

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