The endosulfan hearing on November 14, saw the pesticides manufacturers pleading with the court to allow them to export raw endosulfan. The Supreme Court, on September 30 had allowed the export of endosulfan formulations to countries from which they had received export orders prior to the ban.
The apex court had announced a ban on the production, use, sale and export of endosulfan on May 13 this year.
The three judge bench comprising chief justice SH Kapadia, justice Swatantar Kumar and justice KSP Radhakrishnan have reserved the decision on permission for November 21. The pesticide manufacturers have been asked to file an interim application in this regard.
The petitioners requested for an adjournment of the November 14 hearing as they wanted some more time to be able to respond to the counter affidavit that was filed by the pesticides manufacturers association of India after the last hearing on October 10.
In it, the manufacturers have reiterated their stand that though it is alleged that there are health impacts of endosulfan in Kasaragod and Dakshin Kanada, there is no causative link established between the pesticide and the health problems. The petitioners in their initial reaction had dismissed the claims as 'false statements and a deliberate effort to mislead the court'. They are now working on an extensive reply to the affidavit.
On the same day the central government, filed an affidavit regarding a change in the terms of reference for the Supreme Court appointed joint committee comprising the agriculture commissioner and the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research. "These terms of references are for a long term study that the committee is supposed to do," confirmed Deepak Prakash, advocate for the petitioners, the DYFI (Democratic Youth Federation of India).
The government wants the joint committee, to explain in its long term final report on the extent of health hazard to population and environment, whether its impact has anything to do with the way it is used, the extent of the hazard, the alternatives for endosulfan, if endosulfan is to be allowed then the precautions that should be taken and if the pesticide has to be phased out the manner and mode in which it will be done.
The next hearing is scheduled for November 21.
Stockholm Convention Sets Deadline
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, acting in his capacity as a depository, issued a notification on October 27. It stated that the international phase-out of endosulfan with certain exemptions under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants will come into effect by the end of October next year.
The secretary-general has said that the parties to the Convention should notify the depository if they are unable to accept the decision of the Conference of Parties (COP) taken in April that listed endosulfan for elimination with specific exemptions.
The COP decision will enter into force for all parties, except those who have notified non-acceptance, on expiry of one year from the date of communication by the depository. India has already expressed willingness to join the phase-out over five years (extendable to 10 years).
The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee of the Convention has already set up an ad hoc working group to review and identify information gaps on alternatives to endosulfan and to assess endosulfan alternatives.
Kerala in the Dock
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Kerala government for not paying adequate compensation to the victims of endosulfan in Kasaragod in the state. The commission is also planning to approach the Supreme Court for execution of its orders for paying rupees 500,000 to the next of kin of the victims who lost their lives or were rendered unfit due to the harmful effects of the pesticide.
The state government had announced an increase in the compensation from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 100,000 to the victims and budgeted funds are being released. The state has sought central assistance for payment of compensation as the state government alone could not pay the entire amount.
But its not just the funds, the Oomen Chandy government has also issued a government order to reshuffle the district level relief and rehabilitation cell keeping the civil society out of it. The cell is yet to be dissolved.