A week after the ban

Its been a week since the Supreme Court issued the order for the interim ban on endosulfan. There is no official confirmation on the joint committee yet, when they have to present the interim report within 8 weeks, from May 13, to the Supreme Court. It is after the interim report is submitted will the apex court take a final call on whether the pesticide should be allowed or banned.

The Indian Council of Medical Research director general VM Katoch with his team from ICMR visited Calicut medical college on May 24 to review the  study 'epidemiological study on the health status of the population at Kasaragod' done by the college. HN Saiyed, former director of NIOH is also a part of the delegation that visited Calicut. They visited the hospitals and victims in Kasaragod on May 25.

The agriculture department, informed that notices regarding the ban were sent to all state agriculture departments within the first few days itself. Principal Secretaries of the 
states were informed on a strict implementation of the ban. The licensing authorities in the states and the insecticide inspectors have been designated to keep a close eye on the implementation of the ban. So according to the union agriculture department, all necessary steps have been taken.

But the ground realities are very different. While some states like Punjab were quite oblivious to the Supreme Court ban, there are others like Maharashtra that have issued strict orders on the implementation of the ban. Below is a status of the implementation of the ban in different states as on May 24.

Odisha- The official at the agriculture department informed that they did receive the orders from centre and they have worked on the circular but the ban has not been implemented yet. The official informed that "the government is yet to take a call but we have moved the file". This was on May 24. However civil society group members working in the state informed that endosulfan is still being sold openly in the market. In fact, in Raigarah district it is also available at shops selling mobile sim cards. Debjeet Sarangi of Living Farms, a non profit working in Odisha said that on May 23, when he had called the agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy to know about the implementation of the ban, he  didn't even know what endosulfan was.

- The Punjab agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langha, said that he had no information about the ban. Far from any implementation or orders being issued, the state agriculture extension officers holding Kisan Melas in the state were in fact found advocating the use of Thiodan on the cotton plants. Thiodan is another name for endosulfan.

Gujarat- No one from the Gujarat state government was contactable. But civil society groups working there said that endosulfan was being sold at a discounted price in the state after the Supreme Court passed the interim ban orders. Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust, a non profit working on organic farming in Gujarat, said that the pesticide was being sold at a 75 per cent discount. So the rs 300 per liter pesticide is now being sold at rs 90 per liter.

Maharashtra- The Maharashtra government had issued orders, soon after the Supreme Court directive, to detain any stock of endosulfan which is up for sale in the state. Manufacturing units have been asked to stop production as well. According to an official in the agriculture department, the order has been communicated at all levels down to the pesticide dealers. He adds that since the endosulfan purchasing season is yet to begin, the sales are anyways low at this time of the year. A pesticide dealer in Jalna district in the state however said that they had received no notices or orders on the ban of sale of pesticide. Maharashtra uses about a 100,000 liters of endosulfan a year but the farmers are now moving to less harmful pesticides, which they call 'biological pesticides', even though they are costlier.    

Andhra Pradesh- The AP govt has issued directives to all the districts based on the Supreme Court order. An official of the agriculture department informed that strict orders have been issued and it is only risky for the pesticide dealers to sell endosulfan. He added that as the kharif season was yet to begin and pesticide sales for the kharif season begin in July, the endosulfan sale would have not started yet. Andhra Pradesh is one of the leading consumers of endosulfan. Farmers were buying it because it is one of the cheapest pesticide. However, the official is assured that the sale and use of the pesticide is in a standstill.  There are mixed responses from the districts. According to a source in Rangareddy district, the implementation of the ban is very poor and it is still being  sold. The prices of the pesticide has crashed and the pesticide dealers are believed to be selling it off without profits, with such low prices the farmers might be storing it in godowns. Endosulfan is used on vegetables. But reports from Srikakulam are that the ban is completely in place and is being implemented properly. 

Tamil Nadu- With a change of guard, the Tamil Nadu government was in a bit of a flux. The Karunanidhi government had formed a committee to decide on the fate of endosulfan but that was prior to his being toppled by J Jayalalitha in the state elections. Karunanidhi had formed a six member committee which included officials of the health and agriculture department as well as members of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. No instructions have been given to the district level officials of the state agriculture department on the implementation of the ban. 

Kerala- The newly appointed agriculture minister, KP Mohanan, has put it in very strong words that though endosulfan is banned in the state, any stock that is found to be stored or sold in the state will be immediately seized. Red and yellow label pesticides have already been banned in the state by the orders of the VS Achuthanandan government. The state agriculture department is working on a comprehensive organic farming policy in order to implement chemical free farming in the state. The state pollution control board had issued orders of closure of the   Hindustan Insecticide Limited company,  which is one of the three producers of technical grade endosulfan. Since they haven't yet cleaned up their act the unit remains shut.