Kerala observes shutdown to demand endosulfan ban (Lead)

April 29th, 2011 - 9:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, April 29 (IANS) A shutdown across Kerala Friday, called by the ruling Left Front to demand a ban on the pesticide endosulfan, affected normal life in the state as vehicles kept off the roads and shops and offices remained closed.

Across the state, roads remained deserted, markets were closed and those who tried to open their shops were forcibly made to down shutters. Even normal banking operations remained affected.

A public sector bank in the commercial capital of Kochi that opened saw its glass panels smashed by angry protesters.

Passengers at railway stations and airports were left stranded with no public transport in sight, even though the government had announced that state-owned buses would operate.

“Why is this shutdown menace recurring so frequently only in Kerala? The government is holding the state to ransom on one pretext or the other,” said an angry passenger here.

The shutdown was called to protest the central government’s delay in banning the endosulphan pesticide, whose use the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) had defended in the past.

In December 1999, during the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front’s rule, a group of Leftist trade union activists had attacked those who opposed endosulphan in Kasargode. The protesters were attacked when marching against the aerial spraying of endosulfan in the cashew plantations of the state-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala.

The CPI-M activists had then said the pesticide was necessary to keep the plantations running.

The opposition Congress Friday said the shutdown was a political stunt as the Left Front fears loss of power in the assembly elections, the results of which will be declared May 13.

“It was during Congress rule (2001-2006) that the use of endosulfan was banned in the state,” Oommen Chandy, leader of opposition, said here Friday.

About 500 deaths related to endosulfan use have been officially registered in 11 villages of Kasargode district since 1995. The spraying of the harmful pesticide in the district began in the early 1970s and continued till 2001.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan expressed happiness over the news that the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in Geneva has decided to globally ban endosulfan.

The Chief Minister’s Office Friday informed the media persons here that those who took part in the Geneva meeting have informed Achuthanandan that the meeting has decided for a global ban on endosulfan.

“This is the victory of the people. Reports from Kerala and pictures of the affected from here were displayed in Geneva,” said Achuthanandan.

State Forest Minister Binoy Viswan led a victory march through the main road, leading to the state secretariat.

Similar “victory marches” were held at a few places, including at Kasargode, where the pesticide has caused maximum damage.

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