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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ban of Endosulfan may reduce farmers suicide rate

The Kerala government's plan to ban the use of a series of pesticides is likely to have a major positive spin-off: a substantial fall in the number of suicides in the State which has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. Psychiatrists, social workers, and researchers, who have welcomed the ban on several ‘Red' and ‘Yellow' pesticides, are certain that it will drastically cut the number of suicide deaths as well as suicide attempts in the State. For, they point out; pesticides (all kinds of pesticides) have, in the past decade, emerged as the first choice of tool for those attempting to end their lives in rural Kerala.

V. Sathesh, head of the Department of Psychiatry, Kottayam Medical College, said the ban would have a phenomenal change in the suicide landscape of Kerala. “In my review of 1,300 cases of suicide deaths and suicide attempts, I have noticed that a half of them had consumed pesticides,” he said.
Dr. Sathesh said that curbs on availability of pesticides had substantially reduced the number of suicides in Sri Lanka, a country which had a very high suicide rate. Pesticides needed for farming in a village would be kept locked in a big box by a village elder and would be handed out to the farmers only at the time of application on the crops.

Social workers engaged in suicide prevention efforts pointed out that one particular brand of insecticide; Furadan — which has been banned in the U.S., the European Union, eastern Africa and South Africa — was responsible for most of the individual and family suicides in the farming communities. Furadan is often identified with suicide in Idukki and Wayanad districts. Furadan was behind the deaths of scores of farmers in these districts in the middle of the last decade. Kerala, which has long been had a high suicide rate, however, is now gradually recovering from the longing for death. With the ban on some ‘easy-to-die' pesticides like Furadan, the suicide rate may come down further.

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