Licence to Kill, Not Anymore

HIL's (Hindustan Insecticide Limited) licence to produce endosulfan was cancelled by the Kerala government on May 27. The Gujarat agriculture department too has seized the permit of nearly 80 endosulfan manufacturing and formulating units in the state.

According to an official in the state agriculture department, the production and sale of endosulfan from these units have stopped.

Gujarat has two of the bigger manufacturers of technical grade endosulfan- Excel Crop Care Limited and Coromandel International Limited. Similarly endosulfan units in Maharashtra have been issued orders to stop the manufacture and sale of endosulfan.     

This step has been taken following the Supreme Court order on May 13 that passed an interim order to ban the use, production and sale of endosulfan in the country. The apex court had also directed the statutory authorities to seize the permit given  to manufacturers of endosulfan till further orders.

The HIL was issued a closure notice by the state pollution control board but the closure order has now been revoked. HIL can continue production of other chemicals barring endosulfan. The state pollution control board had issued closure orders on May 11 for non-compliance of pollution control boards directions on removal of sludge, produced during the manufacture of pesticides like endosulfan and DDT. The sludge is also known to contain residues of DDT, endosulfan and other hazardous materials.

The closure order has been revoked said K Sanjeevan, chairman of the State Pollution Control Board, after HIL agreed to completely stop the production of endosulfan and remove the sludge from  its premises to the government hazardous waste disposal site Ambalamedu, in Ernakulam in Kerala. The sludge will be removed from the site in two phases. According to Sanjeevan, 50 per cent of the sludge has been shifted and the remaining will be shifted by December.

However, the HIL units endosulfan wing is now permanently shut and will continue to be shut irrespective of the Supreme Court decision on endosulfan after the stipulated eight week period stated in the May 13 order.  

State Ban
However, reports of the endosulfan use continue to trickle in through different states. Since we reported last, the use is still rampant in parts of Odisha. In fact endosulfan is  openly available in stores in the state capital.

In Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh, no new stock has made it to the market but the old stock available in the stores is being sold at a premium. What was available at rs 250 per liter is now being sold at rs 500 per liter. The kharif season is about to begin and the farmers are hoarding endosulfan as it is the cheapest pesticide.

West Bengal's last interaction with the centre on endosulfan was when the centre wanted the state to give its stand on endosulfan. This was around the time the Stockholm Convention was being held. The state had then formed a committee and decided that more stress should be laid on the use of bio pesticides. However sources close to the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (BCKV), Kalyani said that endosulfan was still being sold in the villages around it.

The Uttar Pradesh government too has issued orders to the state plant protection officers to ensure that there is no sale or use of endosulfan in the state. A state official added that they had to tread on the pesticides path carefully as both the impact on production and the health of people is also very important. He added that the general approach is now to use more and more bio pesticides and reduce the farmers' chemical dependancy.   

Though Karnataka had followed the footsteps of the Kerala government and banned endosulfan in the state, the implementation had been poor. It is being smuggled in through Andhra Pradesh into Karnataka's north eastern Gulbarga district. The civil society group in Dakshin Kanada, met on June 2 to create pressure on the district administration to implement the ban and take necessary action against the defaulting retailers.

Heads of Joint Committee meet
 Its been three weeks since the Supreme Court issued the order of the interim ban on endosulfan and the heads of the joint committee met for the first time on June 2. The meeting between DG ICMR and Agriculture Commissioner took place today and DG VM Katoch said that the two departments were now officially working together. A detailed meeting will take place within the next one week wherein the members of the joint committee and the terms of refernce of the committee will be decided upon. This was the first meeting after ICMR approached the agriculture commissioner to form the joint committee as per the Supreme Court May 13 order. 

On the sidelines, the ICMR is continuing with the study on endosulfan, that they had already begun at the behest of the NHRC. Katoch and his team had visited Ksaragod and met the doctors of the Calicut Medical College who had done the study on health impacts of endosulfan in Kasaragod. He observed that the situation in Kerala improved after the aerial spraying of endosulfan had stopped in the cashew plantations in the district. The ICMR team has sent its observations and recommendations on improving the health and rehabilitation of victims to the organisations working with the victims as well as the state government for their comments.

The agriculture commissioner Gurbachan Singh will hold a meeting with representatives from all the state agriculture department on June 3. This meeting is to discuss the implementation of the ban as well as the viable alternatives to endosulfan.

After Eight Weeks
The Supreme Court had asked the joint committee to submit its report within eight weeks but with just five weeks left it seems improbable that a scientific study can be presented before the court. Deepak Prakash, the advocate for the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), said that the joint committee would then ask for an extension and submit the report at a later date. The interim ban order will continue till such time that the report is submitted and a final decision to either make the ban permanent or lift the ban will be taken after the report is submitted.

"If we are not happy with the report we will fight it out in the court. And till such time that the case continues the ban will not be lifted. But with so much proof it is impossible to ignore the impacts of endosulfan," said Prakash. The Court reopens on July 4 and the endosulfan hearing will take place after July 13.