Indian state of Kerala government has been ordered to pay the
thousands of people whose lives have been permanently scarred by
years of routine spraying of the cheap, highly toxic
is banned in 80 countries. But for more than 20 years, starting in
1973, it was sprayed from helicopters over the cashew crop in the
lush, verdant landscape of this northernmost tip of Kerala three
times a year.
first symptoms of its side-effects were detected in the 1990s.
Farmers described seeing a pile of dead butterflies near a papaya
tree, and other insects dying in droves. Frogs gobbled up the dead
insects and died. Chickens that ate the frogs also died. Calves were
born with twisted legs. One was born with two heads.Among
humans, doctors began noticing congenital disabilities,
hydrocephalus, diseases of the nervous system, epilepsy, cerebral
palsy, and severe physical and mental disabilities. they
realised these symptoms were confined to Kasaragod, the sole district
where endosulfan was aerially sprayed.
was too late,” says MA Rahman, founder of the Endosulfan Victims’
Support Aid Group. “It had leached into the soil and water. No one
told farmers to cover their wells during spraying. Children continued
eating the cashew plant flower. Farmers would send cattle out to
graze after the spraying.”
the Kerala Pollution Control Board confirmed Rahman’s theory,
showing the presence of endosulfan in water samples collected from
sprayed areas. Northern Kerala is full of bodies of water: lagoons,
ponds, canals, open wells and 14 rivers. When it rained, the
pesticide washed down the hills into the valleys and flatlands where
people grew rice, vegetables and fruit for their own consumption.
resident Aisha Shakira lives in Adhur village with her two daughters.
Abida, 21, has mental health problems and has been bedridden since
she was five. When asked for her reaction to the supreme court ruling
that compensation must be paid, Shakira shrugs. “I suppose we can
improve our house to make it nicer and more cheerful for my girls.
But they lost their childhood and I have had no life. I can’t
remember the last time I left the house. Weddings in the family,
engagements, births, festivals – I had to miss them all.”
Bakr, is a daily wage labourer. His sons Ashiqi, 24, and Shafiq, 17,
need constant attention. Shafiq has cerebal palsy and requires
24-hour care. Ashiqi cannot function on his own. “What I
need from the government is a basic income so that I don’t need to
worry about working and can devote myself to the boys... The
compensation will only go so far,” he says.