Friday, April 12, 2013

Living Dead

Kerala-God’s own country. That is how tourists worldwide know it. But, sometimes, names can be really misleading. Take for instance, this area in Kasaragod district. It is called Swarga. In Hindi and Malayalam, Swarga means Heaven. Nothing could be more ironical. This is no heaven. This is a place famous for Cashew plantations. Those who live here and in hamlets around the cashew plantations in the state feel they have died many deaths. Swarga is plagued by disease and tragedy.
Why? For 26 long years, the government-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala aerially sprayed a pesticide called Endosulfan in the cashew plantations of kasergoad. Endosulfan is deadly pesticide banned in 33 other countries. As the plantations are in a mountainous area, the pesticide residues settled on the soil and got washed away when it rained into drinking water streams below. Today, villagers who lived close to the plantation are paying the price. Many of them are paralyzed or are seriously ill. Swarga and other villages in Kasaragod district of Kerala have become living examples of how the poison in pesticides could be lethal to our health when used excessively and carelessly. The area is dotted with tragedy struck families battling physical deformities, cancers and disorders of the central nervous system, affects the reproductive system, and apart from deforming people exposed to the insecticide, Endosulfan even attacks neo-natal babies of Padre and Swarg. It not only killed people, the birds disappeared,butterflies and bees were not to be seen,the micro-organisms in the ecosystem ceased to exist-nature was destroyed. A recent survey in 2012 shows 4000 people are seriously ill and 700 deaths are caused due to this drug. 50% of the homes have at least one member physically challenged.
Mohammed Kunhian activist,remembers how he and his classmates used to run out of their classrooms when they heard the sound of the helicopter that was spraying Endosulfan  The spray would settle on their hair and shine in the sun and they would all laugh. “I shudder to think of it now. We used to go and welcome the helicopter pilots and treat them like heroes. We were actually inviting death and disease,”
If you thought kasergod is the only district to use this pesticide then you are wrong. Kerala government did ban the usage of drug in 2005 but since it is readily available in neighboring states, it is easily smuggled into Kerala.It is used all over the country for agricultural purpose-in tea and cotton plantations and many vegetable cultivation too. One of the most toxic pesticides in the market, Endosulfan is a favorite with farmers because it is very effective. India is world’s largest consumer of Endosulfan and largest manufacturer too. Even our less advanced neighbors banned it long ago but our country has failed to do so.
What is really shocking is the apathetic attitude of the central government. At the sixth meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee meeting on October 15,2010 in Stockholm, India opposed the ban on Endosulfan. In May 2011 the Supreme court of India had banned the use of this drug but had allowed usage until the stock exhausts. In June 2011 the central government requested the Supreme court to lift the ban from producing Endosulfan because they had raw materials that could produce 4000 tones. And in Nov 2011 the Ban was lifted. When most countries ban this hazardous drug it is clear India’s leaders prefer killing its own people with a pesticide which kills the environment too.
Nothing will be ever be done in India to stop the modern businessman/government from using harmful drugs. Drugs are portrayed by the industry as problem fixers, money savers and profit boosters. They probably are for the businessman – but they also cause hugely undesirable effects in people, animals and the whole ecosystem. The victim of this is not only the farmers and their families – it is also you and me.From the vegetable and fruits we consume to milk, eggs and meat, we consume cancerous causing drugs in small quantities. Everything is adulterated; we pass this on to the next generation through our genes.We give them an unhealthy life and a disastrous environment to live in.
It reminds me of a speech a very small gal gave in a meet for nature conservation held by the UNO. It goes like-“The reality is that if CO2 emissions do not level off within five years then we are almost certainly destined for a six degree temperature increase, run-away climate change, ecosystem collapse and a mass-extinction event. Instead of taking action on this problem what are we doing? We are fighting wars all over the world, planning the next Olympic games, carbon-trading, bailing-out the bankers, worshiping consumerism, developing more weapons, flying, planning the next election, having everything on stand-by, creating super-states, getting drunk, committing crimes, plundering finite physical resources, having more unplanned and unwanted children, praying to the gods of economic growth and having Climate-Change Conferences.In other words: business as usual. Wake up everyone, wake up Governments, there is a BIG problem and it is not going away, it has no respect for empty promises, targets and resolutions.”
Her audience was awe struck; they all applauded her for the speech. In reply she said “It is not for these applaud and appreciation that I am here today. I and my friends want to have a healthy world to live in and I am doing my bit. “
Unfortunately I can’t conclude by saying we have to do our bit with respect to the ban on Endosulfan and other drugs we consume through our diets.Its impossible to change the government and their policies. But yes as for the conservation of nature and environment for the future generations to come we should do our bit and we all have heard of the ways and methods to do so a millions of times before. Let us all do that and not push the world faster than its intended to go into the big black hole it came from.

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