Activists working against Endosulfan have slammed the scientists for working in favour of pharmaceutical companies.

Not all are Endosulfan affected Kerala agri-scientists question authenticity of victims in Kasargod Photos : Sreekesh Raveendran Nair
news Endosulfan Sunday, February 12, 2017 - 09:01

Kasargod in Kerala came into the global limelight, after excessive use of the pesticide Endosulfan resulted in a tragic saga that unfolded in the district between 1978 and 2001.

The world soon got to see newborns afflicted with hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and several other congenital defects that became synonymous with the face of the ‘Endosulfan tragedy’.

It was in 2001 that the Down to Earth magazine first published an article saying Kasargod was the worst-affected by Endosulfan, and had served as the trigger for the spread of numerous hereditary diseases and various types of cancers.

This shocking piece of news was taken up by many others who followed it up with proof from a number of studies that were conducted in the region.

However two scientists from the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) have now come forward questioning the authenticity of some such claims.

KM Sreekumar of the Padannakkad College of Agriculture in Kasargod and Prathapan KD of KAU in a paper claim that the extensive spread of diseases in the area cannot be solely attributed to the use of Endosulfan.

KM Sreekumar

Speaking to The News Minute, Sreekumar terms it a scam to get the authorities to shell out rehabilitation packages and monetary compensation, with people falling over themselves to get into the list of those afflicted by the ‘calamity’.

According to Sreekumar, the Kerala government has spent almost Rs 150 crore for Endosulfan victims till date, excluding the Rs 7.34 crore given as compensation to relatives of a few of those who died.

The state government continues to spend Rs 75 lakh every month for the same. Sreekumar alleges that no tests were conducted by doctors in medical camps to confirm whether the diseases were actually caused due to Endosulfan:

“As of now, there are 5500 members in the Endosulfan-affected list prepared by the state. The list includes some who were born before Endosulfan was sprayed in the cashew plantations of Kasargod, others who were born after it was stopped…..names are included on the basis of sympathy.”

Sreekumar then goes on to refute the 2001 findings of the Delhi Centre for Science and Environment, saying that it was just not possible to have such high levels of Endosulfan in the blood of all those reportedly tested in this connection.

“In the study, the blood taken from an old woman -Uthanya Shetty- apparently had 196 ppm of Endosulfan, which is simply absurd. Even those who commit suicide by drinking Endosulfan will have only 4-5 ppm of the pesticide in them. If that is the case, how could a person with 196 ppm ever stay alive for even a day?” he said.

Pointing out the absence of Endosulfan in water samples in a KAU study, Sreekumar draws attention to another study conducted after one year by the National Institute of Occupational Health. Blood samples taken from school students show presence of Endosulfan.

“How is it possible that the pesticide is present in the blood, but not in water resources?” he asks.

He also dismissed a report prepared by the Kozhikode Medical College in 2011 that show increased Endosulfan levels.

“Endosulfan has not been sprayed since 2002. So how does one explain such a drastic increase after a decade?” he said. 

Sreekumar insists that few columns detailing ground truths were conveniently omitted from the final report submitted to the authorities by the Kozhikode Medical College:

“One such column had pointed out that diseases like Asthma, mental retardation etc were higher in number in the Banam village where Endosulfan was not sprayed, as compared to the Muliyar village where Endosulfan was sprayed. They had however categorized liver-disease, fatigue, infertility, shivering etc as Endosulfan-related illnesses. No test was conducted to conclude that fatigue and infertility were actually due to Endosulfan.”

Juxtaposing data garnered from Kasargod and rest of India, Sreekumar reiterates that the district average was not higher than the national average. Cases of cerebral palsy, mental disorders, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, syndromes etc are lower or equal to the national average, he claims:

“A few organisations and the media keep the focus on Kasargod.  Places like Amarambalam in Malappuram, Chembilodu, Mogral Puthoor etc too happen to record a large number of hereditary diseases. But these never make it to the news."

Another fall-out of the whole matter is the negative impact on the personal lives of those tagged as Endosulfan-afflicted.

“People are not ready to get married to locals hailing from villages tagged as Endosulfan-affected. Even the resale value of the land has taken a severe hit,” claims Sreekumar.

Anti-Endosulphan activist Ambalathara Kunjikrishnan however counters all such arguments, by pointing out that Sreekumar works at an Agricultural College, where use of chemicals in farming are taught as part of the syllabus:

“So whatever the professor says is false. Can he cite any particular study to prove the same? There may be a few fake cases, but he cannot accuse everyone of falsehood. Several studies conducted by individuals as well as institutions since 2001 have clearly proved that these diseases are the result of Endosulfan alone. We cannot argue with Census data or numbers. This is not just about numbers, but about  individuals who have suffered for long.”

He even went on to accuse Sreekumar of siding with chemical/fertilizer companies for personal gains.

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