Siraj Kattilpilla, an endosulfan victim in Muliyar in Kasargod
The head of the Syro-Malankara Church yesterday joined a campaign against endosulfan, a pesticide that is causing serious health problems in the southern state.
“The Church wholeheartedly supports the campaign because a lot of people are suffering,” Major Archbishop Isaac Mar Cleemis of Trivandrum said after joining a day of fasting in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital.
Leaders from communist and pro-Hindu parties also joined the hunger strike, held rallies and collected signatures across Kerala to press the federal government into banning endosulfan.
The protest coincided with the opening of the fifth Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in Geneva.
The conference aims to consider a global ban on endosulfan. However, the Indian government is among several countries opposing such a ban.
Endosulfan has been blamed for a large number of deaths and genetic deformities in 11 villages in Kerala’s Kasargod district. It was used in cashew plantations in those villages until 1981.
Kerala banned the pesticide in 2005 and has since called for a countrywide ban.
India reportedly has more than a 70 percent share in the global endosulfan market that annually produces 12 million liters valued at 45 billion rupees (US$1 billion).
The pesticide is banned in 60 countries.
In Kerala, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan led cabinet colleagues, movie stars as well as political and religious leaders in the one-day hunger strike.
Thousands joined a rally in Kasargod district which falls under Tellicherry archdiocese.
Major Archbishop Cleemis said Church leaders cannot ignore the suffering of people. “It is a social issue and it is our duty to extend moral support to them,” he added.
The prelate questioned the federal government’s reluctance to ban endosulfan when “its severe effects are clearly visible in society.”
Earlier, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council called on the federal government to ban the pesticide, but Delhi says it needs more evidence to take such action.
Father Antony Punnoor, parish priest of St. Joseph’s Church, Kasargod, says there is no need for more evidence. “The pathetic conditions of thousands in Kasargod show the pesticide’s serious effects on humans,” he asserted.
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