Monday, May 16, 2011

Endosulfan : A brief report.

One of the hot topics in today's debates is the 'Ban on Endosulfan'. In a developing country like India where endosulfan tragedy occured in Kerala, even common people are seriously discussing the effects of this killer pesticide. The usage of this colourless solid agrochemical may lead us to illness and then to severe crisis.
Endosulfan is mainly used for the elimination of insects. Endosulfan will badly affect the nerve system of the insects and mammals including humans. In Kerala, it is mainly used in cashew plantations. By 2011, more than 80 countries have banned endosulfan including some countries that declared its complete phase out. The world's most populous countries China and India are still using endosulfan in large quantities.
Endosulfan is one of the cheapest and toxic fertilizer easily available in the market. In 1980, about 9000 tonnes of endosulfan was produced annually. By 1980-89 it increases to 10500 tonnes per year. By 1990s it again increased to 12800 tonnes per year. India is the largest user of endosulfan in the world with three major producing companies - Excel CropCare, Hindusthan Insecticides Limited, Coromandel Fertilizers. India produces 4500 tonnes annually for the domestic use and 4000 tonnes for export.

In humans endosulfan mainly affects the endocrine glands thus by affecting sexual growth and physical development. Small doses of endosulfan through food for long tern may cause health problems. Loss of bodily control, difficulty in breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and in severe cases unconsciousness are the symptoms of endosulfan poisoning. In a study conducted in Kasargode district in Kerala(India), it was found that endosulfan affects the production of testosterone hormone which causes delayed sexual maturity in male children. Woman had to undergo several abortions in order to avoid giving birth to handicapped children.
The endosulfan splits in to endosulfan sulfate and endosulfan diol. These two have almost same properties as that of the endosulfan and takes 9 months to 6 years to degrade. Endosulfan can spread to distant areas through air and water.
The above said are the reasons that are commonly put forward by the authorities who want to ban this killer pesticide endosulfan. Now let us look in to the argument put forward by the supporters of endosulfan. There are rules and guidelines regarding the the use of every pesticide put forward by the government as well as the manufacturer. These rules must be strictly followed while using these pesticide in order to avoid toxic effects to the humans as well as to the environment. The violation of these rules and guidelines resulted in the tragedy in Kasargode district. For example, while spraying endosulfan using helicopter, the helicopter must be just above the canopy level of the plantation. Due to the passage of electric lines just above the canopy level, the helicopter sprayed endosulfan a few meters above the canopy level. This caused the endosulfan to spread to the nearby areas. More over there are water bodies which serves as the source of water for the majority of the villagers get polluted. The plantation workers were unaware of the effects caused by the endosulfan and the were not provided protective masks. This phenomenon continued to about ten years. The authorities also didn't make a public announcement before the application of the endosulfan. This causes more villagers to get exposed to endosulfan. One more argument in support for the endosulfan is that it is one of the cheapest pesticide that is available easily in the market and consumption of small quantities of endosulfan through food for short duration do not have any health risks(not proved).
After the Bhopal tragedy, endosulfan tragedy remains in second place in magnitude. In 2001, then Kerala Chief Minister, A K Antony banned endosulfan in Kerala State. Karnataka and Madya Pradesh states in India have already called for the ban on endosulfan. The Stockholm Convention on 29 April 2011 imposed ban on endosulfan. The ban will come to effect from the mid 2012. Some uses are exempted from the ban for next five years. The Supreme Court of India recently imposed a temporary ban on endosulfan.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

New Law For Internet Cafes

Today morning, sipping hot tea and glancing through The Hindu news paper, my eyes got struck on a news headline in the last page - 'New IT rules may make cyber cafe's out of bounds for users'. The news attracted my attention because a new cybercafe was established recently near my house by some of my friends. Even though it was not a top class internet cafe, they have invested a large amount with respect to their potential.
The new law enforces the owners of the cybercafe to store even the minute details regarding the identity of the customers. This is a very difficult task since it consumes more money. Most of the cybercafes are run by people who have moderate income and moderate knowledge in computer handling. If new law is enacted in letter and spirit it will put the owners of cybercafes in to trouble.
We cant blame the government for forming such strict laws in the light of the recent events relating to terrorism. The customers can misuse the internet cafes to sent a false alarm to the government authorities or to threaten a VIP or such etc activities.

According to the new rule, the cybercafe customers are required to furnish proper identification proof, a copy of which may be stored for a year. Acceptable identity cards include those issued by any college or schools, or photo credit cards, passports ,voter identity card,PAN cards, driving licenses or any card issued by the government agencies including UID number. School children who do not have a photo ID card will not allowed entry unless accompanied by an adult having proper identification proof. Additionally, the cybercafe owners must photograph their customers and maintain a detailed time log of each of their visits. A soft and hard copy of these usage logs, which will include customer's photograph and ID proof, must be submitted to a government designated person or authority every month. The cybercafe owner shall be responsible for keeping the backups of following log records for each login to its computer resource for atleast one year, for atleast one year.
According to the Information Technology Act,2008, the furniture in cybercafe must be cubicles with partitions having height not more than four and half feet. The terminals must be placed in such a way that the display of the computers face outwards and can be easily monitored. The computers in cybercafes must be equipped with commercially available safety or filtering software to avoid the customers accessing pornographic websites. A board displaying prohibition of viewing pornography must be placed in a location in the cybercafe easily seen by all customers.
The law affects the cybercafes in the city centers than that in the rural areas. The storage of the customer details both in soft and hard forms will require cost which the cybercafe owners have to spend from their pocket or levied from the customers. However the law discourages the cybercafe customers from using cybercafes. The only hope for the cybercafe owners is that only an officer of the registration agency can inspect the enforcement of this law in cybercafes and not the police. There is also a high chance for the law to be remain only in paper since the strict enactment of the law may lead to the closure of the majority of the cybercafes. The government can lend a helping hand by providing software required and free space for gathering and storing customer identity details.

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