Chennai, December 7th 2017: A fact finding team that investigated the recent spate of pesticide poisonings in Perambalur and Ariyalur districts of Tamil Nadu slammed the state government for its inaction so far despite hundreds of farmers and farm workers being affected. It is estimated that at least 200 to 300 persons have been hospitalised in the past two months after exposure to deadly pesticides, and at least six deaths have occurred, in 3 districts of Tamil Nadu. Reports from other districts are emerging now. However, no ex-gratia relief to the affected, nor concrete preventive measures have been put in place by the government. “This situation is highly preventable and no pesticide poisonings should have occurred at all, if the government had ensured that bannable pesticides were stopped from being sold and used, and if ecological alternatives were taught to farmers for crop protection”, said the team members who presented their findings to the media today.
The fact finding team met with affected families and also met with concerned government officials in its visit to Perambalur and Ariyalur districts on November 4th, 5th and 6th 2017. Detailed documentation of 5 death cases, and 5 other cases where pesticide poisoning-affected persons were hospitalised and discharged after treatment was taken up by this 10-member team consisting of Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture); Ananthoo and Parthasarathy, Safe Food Alliance; K. Balakrishnan, Swaraj Abhiyan; Saravanan, PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties); Ramesh Karuppaiya, Thamizh Kadu; Swaminathan, Karunganni Cotton Growers’ Group; S Nandakumar, Ullatchi Ungalatchi; N Ganesan and V Vetrivel, Barefoot Academy of Governance.
“The Right to Life of desperate farm workers and farmers is being violated systemically because the government has failed to anticipate a highly preventable tragedy. We find that right now, the attempt seems to be to discount the number of deaths and attribute other reasons to the fatalities seen so far. This is highly unacceptable. Many families have been rendered support-less due to these occupational poisonings. Hundreds of others have incurred unaffordable expenses on medical care including in private hospitals due to such poisoning. We demand that the state government take responsibility for this, and immediately pay an ex-gratia amount of at least 10 lakh rupees for families where a death took place, and 2 lakh rupees where a person has been hospitalised. The government should also recover these amounts from the pesticides industry”, said the team.
The team demanded immediate action from the government on numerous fronts. There has to be an immediate and comprehensive assessment of the prevalence and intensity of the problem of pesticide poisonings in all districts, to begin with, rather than ignore the issue. Massive awareness campaigns on the ill effects of pesticides, symptoms of pesticide poisonings as well as ecological alternatives to be adopted by farmers should be run by the government. The treatment protocols being adopted for pesticides-affected patients have to be reviewed, especially in the case of government hospitals. The impact of Bt / GM technology as well as pesticides has to be assessed comprehensively by including all concerned experts. To prevent recurrence of the problem, licenses for sales of all ‘bannable’ pesticides should be revoked immediately.
“Stopping of sales licenses on deadly pesticides has been done by neighboring state government, Kerala. Why can’t Tamil Nadu do the same?”, demanded the activists. They also wanted accountability to be fixed on pesticides manufacturers, sellers as well as public authorities who failed to discharge their duties responsibly.
The fact finding report captures the potential that some sustainable alternatives have, in terms of preventive action by the government. Farmers who are opting for native species of cotton like Karunganni have very little pest and disease problems on their crop, and therefore, do not have to contend with the negative impacts of pesticides or Bt technology. Similarly, opting for millet cropping systems instead of cotton cultivation has proven to be more profitable and environment friendly for many farmers. “These experiences exist within Perambalur and it is high time that the government paid attention to the potential that exists here, and promote these alternatives on a large scale”, said members of the fact finding team.
Photos from the fact finding visit are available at: https://drive.google.com/open?
For more information, contact:
1. Ananthasayanan: 9444166779;
2. Saravanan: 9751237734