Kerala’s new government yesterday began its tenure by making permanent a ban on the use of endosulfan in the southern India state, a move welcomed by activists and Church leaders.
The United Democratic Front government also announced it would double the compensation for endosulfan victims.
Government records show aerial spraying of endosulfan killed 486 people and affected the health of thousands of others up until 2008 in Kasargod, Kerala’s northernmost district.
About 4,000 have been affected over the past 25 years since the spraying began on government-owned cashew plantations in the district.
Kerala’s previous government had announced 50,000 rupees (US$1,125) in compensation to each of the victims’ families.
But it compensated only 178 families, according to new chief minister, Oommen Chandy, an Orthodox Christian.
“We would cover all families with double the amount,” said Chandy.
Endosulfan victims have welcomed the decision.
“We are suffering because the deadly poison has polluted our water, soil and environment,” Muhammed Kunji, a local politician in Kasargod, said.
He said the new government’s move is significant since it is headed by the Congress party – the same party heading the federal government, which wants more proof of the threats endosulfan poses before banning it.
The federal government tried to block a global ban on the pesticide at a recent summit in Stockholm, Kunji noted. "We are happy our chief minister has taken this initiative to help us.”
Babu Paul, a former civil servant, says the government has shown “rare sensitivity in dealing with the problems of the people.”
Catholicos Baselios Mar Cleemis of Trivandrum, head of the Syro-Malankara Church, says the government move is “sends out a good signal.”
"The new government should do more for the victims. The poor people have suffered for too long,” Catholicos Cleemis said.
Latin rite Archbishop Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum, meanwhile urged the government to draft policy guidelines on the use of pesticides in farming.
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