A child suspected to be victim of endosulfan (photo courtesy cyberjournalist.org.in)

The debate is intensifying on the endosulfan issue. The issue is now getting full media attention in Kerala.  And for the first time, coverage has surpassed issues such as Plachimada which dwarfs into insignificance when one examines the havoc wrecked by endosulfan in Kasaragod district of Kerala and northern areas of Karnataka. People have been affected by endosulfan in Palakkad and Idukki districts also, though they are yet to be documented.

The Union Minister of State for Agriculture K. V. Thomas’s attempt to speak for the endosulfan lobby has boomeranged on him. The issue snowballed with Mr. Thomas’s speech in the heart of Kasaragod district.

To retain its ground and to pre-empt the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests, the Union Agriculture Ministry announced a new committee to study the issue. C. D. Mayee, who headed an earlier committee that declared that no link had been established between endosulfan and the health problems of people in 11 panchayats of Kasaragod district, was suitably chosen to head the committee. The outcome is predictable, but this time around, public criticism is not going to be doused by its report.

Succor to endosulfan victims was something promised by V. S. Achuthanandan when he was the Opposition. His slow-acting government has taken years to get into action to reach any significant assistance to the victims. (Non-governmental organisations did better than the government.). Now, he has convened a review meeting and made some announcements. But the government is likely to demit office with a half completed study by the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment and credit for providing marginal assistance to the victims.

Core issues like compensation to the victims remain unattended by successive governments. Even the Human Rights Commission is forgetting about fundamental rights to safe drinking water and food when it talks of health facilities alone.

Update (22/12/2010): The Centre has decided to drop Mayee from the committee and decided to appoint a committee headed by a health department official. No package for victims or national  ban on the pesticide before the committee submits its report.