Endosulfan, a Kerala story Saturday, Apr 23 2011 

Endosulfan: the Kerala story

Cover of the book published by Kerala Government, Endosulfan: the Kerala story

Chief Minister of Kerala V. S. Achuthanandan should be congratulated for offering fast on April 25 to press for ban on endosulfan. However, it only becomes penance for four years of inaction after he assumed office.

Despite the sympathies expressed for endosulfan campaign while he was the Opposition leader, Mr. Achuthanandan did hardly anything for the endosulfan victims for four years. He could not excuse himself that his party was in the way as this was one of the few issues on which the party was not at odds with him.

However, he scrambled back into action by the time the elections were around the corner. The Cabinet entrusted the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment with a quick assessment of the damage. However, the time available was very limited for a scientific study and the expert committee could not submit its report till now. It faced problems about sampling, testing and selection of control populations.

So, the all-party delegation went to Delhi without a scientifically prepared dossier but with a brochure on endosulfan to persuade the Centre to support an on endosulfan. The Centre took refuge on need for further studies though further studies are not really needed for the purpose of ban. There is ample evidence that endosulfan causes many diseases though it can be debated whether a particular case is caused by endosulfan. However, considering the known mechanisms of its causing diseases and known status of endosulfan persistent organic pollutant and one that can gravely affect the brain and reproductive systems, the precautionary principle applies. The principle has been upheld by courts in India, yet it has not been forcefully raised by the delegation.

The government claims to have provided much assistance to the victims in recent months. However, it did not match even non-governmental organisations like Solidarity (youth arm of Jama ate Islami) . However, it is to be acknowledged that it did provide considerable medical assistance though it did not reach all. Though it has announced Rs. 2000 a month each to the victims in this year’s budget, the job of distributing it actually falls on the next government.  Even the Rs. 300 a month announced for by-standers are yet to reach many affected families. There are complaints that the survey done by the government to identify victims were not exhaustive even while it allowed some people affected by non-endosulfan related diseases to get into the list.

Though the problem in Kasaragod was known to governments for two decades, they had done nothing to decontaminate the area, supply pure drinking water or promote replacement of food crops with cash crops as food crops in the area also carried endosulfan residues according to some studies.

It is known that the officials of the Plantation Corporation of Kerala violated several laws in spraying endosulfan over large areas with little precautions. Though the Chief Minister promised action against them six months ago, no steps had actually been taken. A police investigation would be needed to find out whether they have also dumped stocks in pits and covered them up.  If the Corporation and its officials are allowed to go scot free, tragedies like that in Kasaragod would recur. In fact, it is already happening in Idukki district and elsewhere as motorised pumps are used to spray deadly pesticides.

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Endosulfan: Core issues remain unattended Tuesday, Dec 21 2010 

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.

Bhopal gas victims get some promises after 24 years Saturday, Aug 9 2008 

Justice delayed is justice denied

A victim of endosulfan

A victim of endosulfan. Source:Cyberjournalist.org.in

The Central Government has decided to set up an Empowered Commission for rehabilitation of Bhopal Gas Victim nearly 24 years after the tragedy struck the Bhopal.

It also took the Government so long to admit that the tragedy affected all the wards of the Bhopal city. (The Centre has accepted the Madhya Pradesh Government recommendation to declare the remaining 20 wards of the city as “gas affected”. The residents of Bhopal have also been promised to implement a remediation plan to clean up lethal waste from the city.

The promises came after a 72-day, 500-mile march to New Delhi and two-month hunger strike by victims and their supporters.

The belated promises do not increase one’s trust on the rule of law and justice. The victims had sought justice from various courts including the highest court of the land. However, elected governments would have to finally bow to the demands of the organisations of survivors give some hope about democracy in the country.

Though on a smaller scale, the plight of the endosulfan victims at Kasaragod district of Kerala is no different. Substantial aid for medical treatment and rehabilitation is still to reach victims thought the district panchayat had started implementing a project two years ago. None had been held accountable for aerial spraying pesticides over populated areas unnecessarily. Like in the cases of Bhopalis, the victims in most of the endosulfan affected villages are yet to get protected water supply.

Related:

Decades Later, Toxic Sludge Torments Bhopal

Middle Class Myopia on Bhopal and Beyond

Amoral corporations, 25 years on

Bhopal-25 years later

Students for Bhopal

B H O P A L . N E T

Endosufan conspiracy

Statement to be made by the Hon’ble Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Steel Ram Vilas Paswan on August 8, 2008 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.

The Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted to oversee the matters related to
Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster, in its meeting held on 11th June, 2008, had
taken certain important decisions. Based on these decisions, the following
action has been/ is being taken by the Government.

(i) Plan of Action for rehabilitationof Bhopal Gas Victims
The government of M.P. has submitted a Memorandum on the Plan of
Action for the rehabilitation of the gas victims and their families,
with estimates amounting to Rs. 982.75 crore. The Dept. of Chemicals&
Petrochemicals, Ministry of Chemicals has forwarded the Action Plan to
the Planning Commission for their comments and would thereafter be
placed before the GoM, for further necessary action.

(ii) Declaration of remaining 20 wards of Bhopal as ‘ gas affected’
The request of the Govt. of M.P. for declaring the remaining 20 wards
of Bhopal as Gas affected was not agreed to by the GoM. However, the
GoM decided that the Government of M.P. may take an appropriate
decision to allow free treatment and availability of medicines to the
people of the 20 unaffected wards, in the Government Hospitals,
without prejudice to the benefits and entitlements of the recognized
gas victims in 36 ‘gas affected’ wards.

(iii) Setting up of an Empowered Commission for rehabilitation of Bhopal Gas Victims:
The GoM decided that the Department of C&PC would prepare a Draft
Proposal on the Terms of Reference , modalities, functions, powers,
headquarters and other related requirements for setting up of the
proposed Empowered Commission. A draft Resolution/ Executive Order,
after approval of the Minister of C&F and S and the Chairman of the
GoM, has been circulated to the Ministries/ Departments concerned of
the Government of India and the Government of M.P., for comments/
views.

(iv) Continuation of Medical Research by ICMR
The ICMR should resume the research work which was stopped in the year
1994 and give its recommendations for the right line of treatment for
different medical problems faced by the gas victims and their
families. the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and
Family Welfare, has been requested to take further necessary action.

(v) Application of the Dept. of Chemicals& Petrochemicals, Ministry of Chemicals filed in the High Court of M.P. in W.P. No. 2802 of 2004 (Alok Pratap Singh vs Union of India & Others)

The Department of C & PC would not withdraw its application filed in the High Court of
Madhya Pradesh requesting the Court to direct Respondents No. 4 to 6,
in the P.I.L filed in W.P. No. 2802 of 2004, to deposit Rs. 100 crore
as advance for environmental remediation of the former UCIL plant site
at Bhopal. The outcome of the matter pending before the High Court of
Madhya Pradesh may be awaited in this regard.

(vi) Offer of Sh. Ratan Tata to set up Site Remediation Fund to clean UCIL Plant site
The offer of Shri Ratan Tata is not acceptable in its current form as
it is a conditional offer to absolve Dow Chemicals Company from the
liability for environmental remediation of the former Union Carbide
India Limited plant site at Bhopal.

(vii) Extradition of Warren Anderson
The legal pursuit for the extradition of Warren Anderson may be
expediated by the Ministry of External Affairs with the US
Authorities.

(viii) Cancellation of Registeration of Pesticides of Dow obtained by payment of bribes
The CBI has been directed to expediate its report on the
investigations into the alleged payment of bribes to the officials of
Ministry of Agriculture by Dow for obtaining the registration of four
pesticides, including Dursban

(ix) Environmental Remediation of the Former UCIL Plant site at Bhopal
The Government of India and the Government of M.P. may go ahead with
the implimentation of the Roadmap for the environmental remediation of
the former UCIL Plant site at Bhopal

(x) Review of approval of Federal Trade Commission(FTC)between Reliance and Dow Global
Technologies Inc.

As the representative of the concerned Ministry was not present for
the meeting of the GoM, therefore, the views of the Minsitry were not
available for the GoM to take a holistic view in the matter related to
approval of FTC. The GoM deferred a decision on the issue.