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The world takes care of its people; India, of business interests

A child that Sharad Pawar doesn't give a damn about. Photo: Mathrubhumi

If you look at the above picture, you might find it heart-wrenching. You may feel pity for the child. You would even think what crime the child might have committed to deserve this. But that pity could well turn into anger if you were told that it is the current dispensation in Delhi which is, to a considerable extent, responsible for the plight of the child.

For, it is the Congress-led regime which has been callous to the perils of a pesticide called endosulfan and has done all within its mite to protect the interests of business establishments that manufacture and distribute this chemical. The child is a collateral damage statistic. The perpetrators of this crime against humanity have taken refuge under the protective umbrella of the Manmohan Singh administration.

This child is not alone. Every year scores of agricultural workers and small farmers are killed by this pesticide; thousands more are rendered ill in Kasaragod district of Kerala. And there are these innocent child victims who will never know what hit them.

Last week, 173 countries debated whether or not there should be a global ban on endosulfan. As many as 125 of these had banned it outright. Forty-seven were fence-sitters. There was only one country which argued vociferously for this pesticide – India. What India, shamelessly so, proved was that while other countries take care of the interests of its people first, the Manmohan Singh government thinks first and only of business interests. The people be damned. Singh might well say later that he had been kept in the dark.

From an endosulfan factsheet:

  • Endosulfan is a ‘persistent organic pollutant’ (POP) as defined under the Stockholm Convention: it is persistent in the environment, bioaccumulative, demonstrates long range environmental transport, and causes adverse effects to human health and the environment. Endosulfan is listed as a POP in the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), and is recognised as a Persistent Toxic Substance by the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • Yesterday’s pesticide: First registered for use in 1954, endosulfan is a broad spectrum organochlorine insecticide. Following international recognition of their long term negative impacts on the global environment, organochlorines, including DDT, chlordane and HCH, have been largely eliminated from use in global agriculture. Endosulfan remains the major exception and is still widely applied to crops – particularly in the developing world.
  • Widespread contamination: Due to its potential to evaporate and travel long distances in the atmosphere, endosulfan has become one of world’s most widespread pollutants. Endosulfan is now found extensively in global water resources, soils, air, rainfall, snow and ice deposits and oceans, including in remote ecosystems such as the Arctic, Antarctic, Great Lakes, Canadian Rockies, Costa Rican rainforests, Alps, and Himalayas. Endosulfan is a widespread contaminant of human breast milk and has been found in samples from women in Egypt, Madagascar, South Africa, El Salvador, Kazakhstan, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Spain, Colombia, Nicaragua, Sub-Saharan Africa, Denmark and Finland, and in umbilical cord blood samples in Denmark, Finland, Spain, USA, Japan. A survey of women in Denmark and Finland found endosulfan in all samples of breast milk (total = 280) and in all placental samples (total = 130). Neither country has ever recorded heavy use of endosulfan.
  • Impacts on health: Acute endosulfan poisoning can cause convulsions, psychiatric disturbances, epilepsy, paralysis, brain oedema, impaired memory and death. Long term exposure is linked to immunosuppression, neurological disorders, congenital birth defects, chromosomal abnormalities, mental retardation, impaired learning and memory loss.
  • Food contamination: Endosulfan is an abundant food contaminant globally and is present in a wide range of fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products (milk, butter, cheese) and meat (beef, lamb, pork). In Africa, Asia and South America, endosulfan is present in drinking water resources, while in USA, China, Australia and West Africa, endosulfan has been detected in fish and seafood.
  • Safer alternatives are available: Successful replacement of endosulfan has been achieved in all countries where endosulfan is now banned including France, Spain, Greece and Portugal – all major users prior to the EU ban in 2006. Farmers in some non-EU countries have also converted away from endosulfan, including in cotton, soy and coffee production. A 2008 study in Sri Lanka showed that yields of all crops, including rice and tea, have been maintained since a national ban in 1998.

The world is against endosulfan. Science is against endosulfan. It is only the Indian government which still needs scientific studies to prove the harmful effects of the pesticide. Among those who have been persistently advocating the use of endosulfan is Sharad Pawar.

If you know Pawar, you know he will not give a fig about this child.

 
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