Sunday, 9 June 2013

“Endowment of Endosulfan”

Trigger warning : contains disturbing visuals of defomities amongst children

Nearly a dozen of us had assembled at Dr Ravindranath Shanbhag’s residence.  It was an informal meeting of volunteers who had joined in for a good cause. Sir started off telling about a professor he had, who had called about 10 youngsters including the young professor Shanbhag, for a meeting like the one we were in.  ‘He said, “First of all I want you all to be independent.  For that I will teach you how to catch a cobra”.  Saying this he opened a cage of several cobras, and taking them out one by one, he extracted the venom from each of them.’  By selling the venom to the lab, they could make money.
 As we listened breathless, a beaming Dr Shanbhag said he had caught several cobras and freed them in his farm house.  “To this day, I never needed security guards to my farm house”, he added, jokingly.  He had learnt a lot from this professor and he was his first inspiration.  He had taught him how to handle problems and find solutions; to deal with the cobras of life.  Since then till date he has been helping solve people’s problems, fighting for the rights of the helpless lot, handling over 23000 cases of human rights in the past 35 years.  “If you have a passion, and that passion can help people in need, there is nothing greater than that”, he said.

Moving on to the matter, he told us about endosulfan and its harmful effects.  Endosulfan is a pesticide (chlorinated hydrocarbon), first started in America.  The effects were visible within a year of use and as soon as they discovered the cause, they banned the use.  Meanwhile, its manufacture was still going on and was used in other countries including in India.  The case concerned now is, however, the effects of endosulfan in Karnataka, which has suffered the most.   The government authorities, unmindful of the effect arranged to spray the deadly pesticide aerially over the cashew plantations in various parts of Karnataka for 2 decades.  The effect was just similar to the pesticide you spray on the cockroaches in your household.

 The people who were directly exposed to this spray first experienced skin diseases, respiratory depressions, irritation in the eyes even leading to blindness and death.  The pesticide which is water soluble got mixed in the water bodies and soil and thereby in the fruits and vegetables.  The toxins entered the blood stream of everyone who consumed it.  The chronic toxicity caused the victims to suffer from hormonal imbalance, memory impairment, testicular and prostate cancer, still birth, increased risk of breast cancer and many more. 

The problem does not stop here, as it was not only the people exposed to the pesticides who were affected, but also the children born to them in generations that followed.  The children are born with defects, physical abnormalities, mental retardation and stunted physical growth.  The children are immobile, bed-ridden and totally dependent.  The number affected which was in 100s has increased to 1000s by new births every year in two decades.

In spite of the poverty, the parents of such children are taking care of them.  But how long?  May be till they age and die; but who will look after them when the parents are gone? This suffering is getting carried over for decades to come.  How can we make it stop? These villages are remote and away from civilization.  The victims are hardly, or I could say not all, aware of the cause of their suffering. In some of the worst cases it is believed that it is the Curse of the village Bhoota ‘Jathadhari’.
      How can the affected regions be assessed and how can these people be made aware of the cause of their suffering?
      Dr. Shanbhag already has conducted a survey of the affected areas and recorded each and every case through his team.  He has done everything that could be done to move the court, the government and get the compensation for the victims.   But alas!   There are still some remote areas and hundreds of victims still unknown to the honourable government and the civic people in the cities.  The human life is so long and who will take care of these victims till their death?
     He has two point plan which he wants to start without using the government machinery. 
      1.  Arrest the new births by scanning the present number of pregnant women of the affected areas and terminate the defective foetus: If a defect is diagnosed in the foetus within the 19th week of pregnancy, it can be terminated within the 20th week, legally. 
     2.      Build nursing homes in the areas where the victims are concentrated and nurse the victims till their death. 

Even as you read, many more children are born with the problem.  Recent survey has found victims in Bagalkot, Davangere, Karwar and Udupi.

Are you shocked to read about this?   Do you empathise with the endosulfan victims? Do you think you can join hands with the mission?   Please come forward‼‼‼‼!


1 comment:

  1. “If you have a passion, and that passion can help people in need, there is nothing greater than that”, Nive you are doing it through your articles. Good job. Lets spread this awareness.