The Hush Post| 12:33 pm|three-minute-read|
Theog a sub-division of Shimla district, which has a population of less than one lakh saw shockingly 71 patients suffering from cancer in 2017 admitted to IGMC, Shimla. This number has been more or less steady in the earlier years as well. In 2016 this number was at 56, and the number was 65 and 69 in 2015 and 2014.
Is there a link between the off-season pesticide-grown vegetables consumptions like cauli-flowers, cabbages, etc and cancer Tikender Singh Panwar finds out:
Himachal Pradesh, a state known for its pristine natural beauty, clean air, ambient
climate, apples, tourism etc., is undergoing a transformation, albiet a shocking one, in its “effects of shift in agriculture and horticulture”. “This” transformation, does not pertain to the shift in the agri-pattern from conventional cereals and potatoes growing economy to apples and now mainly “off season vegetables”; this transformation took place some 2-3
The transformation which is taking place now is from the effects of this
first transformation that pertains to “rapid rise in malignancy(cancer)” cases in the
It(rise in cancer patients) could be attributed to various reasons, but rampant use of
‘synthetic pesticides’ (fungicides & insecticides) cannot be brushed aside to be as one of the principal reasons. Hence there must be a concerted, coordinated research
integrating the medical colleges, department of biochemistry and organic chemistry
of Himachal University, scientists from the University of Horticulture and Forestry
and other important scientists from the same fraternity.
To state the least, the state is on the brink of a deep crisis where more than 5,000 new cases of malignancy are reported every year and an equal number go unreported. For a small state like Himachal, it is alarming!
THEOG: HUB OF OFF-SEASON VEGETABLES
Why Theog ? Because this is the area where there has been the largest shift from
conventional agriculture to off-season vegetables and is considered to be an area
growing largest per capita vegetables in Asia. Theog is a subdivision in Shimla district.
AS reported not just it is the largest vegetable growing area, also the largest
consumption of seeds and use of fertilizers and pesticides.
Suman Kumari (34 years), Ranjana (33 years) and Jyoti (17 years) all of them (their
names are changed all these girls died in the last two years. All of them belonged to a contiguous area in Theog and suffered from GI(Gastro-intestinal); affecting the digestive system) malignancy. Similarly, there are scores of other cases reported from the same region who died due to malignancy.
The data collected from the department of radiotherapy, IGMC (Indira Gandhi
Medical College) Shimla depicts that there is a rise in cases in successive years. Also
to put on record that the above cases(of three girls) do not figure in the IGMC
records as after diagnosis of cancer, instead of getting treated in Shimla they went to
different medical institutions outside the state. The table below gives a picture of
the cases from Theog who underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy in
radiotherapy department, IGMC Shimla.
S No. Year Number of patients from Theog who underwent
radiotherapy and chemotherapy in IGMC, Shimla
1. 2014 — 69
2. 2015 — 65
3. 2016 — 56
4. 2017 — 71
SPRAYS OF PESTICIDES: MNCs PROTOCOL
Sohan Thakur, a prominent vegetable grower and a former member of the zila
parishad(district panchayat) from Theog, said that the agricultural transformation in
Theog took place in late 1980s when large scale shift took place from cereal growing
to “off season vegetables”. The main vegetable crops in Theog are cabbage,
cauliflower, peas, French beans and even tomatoes. In some of the places apple also
is a major crop.
According to the data collected from Theog , 600 kg of cauliflower seeds, 500 kg of
cabbage seeds, 70 metric tonnes of French beans and 280 tonnes of peas are sown in
Theog region. The table below shows the total production in the area.
S.No. Seeds (average last two years)
Quantity sown in
Average production of crop
1. Cauliflower 600 kg 100 g produces 12.5 tonnes
2. Cabbage 500 kg 100 g produces 10 tonnes
3. French beans 70 tonnes 1 kg produces 750 kg
4. Peas 280 tonnes 1 kg produces 50 kg
The table itself explains the large quantity of seeds sown in the region and an
equivalent large quantity of production in the Theog region.
Interestingly, the entire seeds are supplied by multinational corporations(MNCs) and
are mainly hybrid. A cursory look at the money collected by these MNCs from the
sale of seeds is astonishing. A 10 g packet of Cauliflower seeds costs Rs 65,000;
cabbage seeds Rs 35,000, French beans costs Rs 450 per kilogram and Peas seeds
cost Rs 250 per kilogram.
There is a protocol laid by the MNC seed companies that the vegetable grower is
forced to follow in the spraying pattern of pesticides on the vegetables. Else, the
harvest will be of very poor quality. According to the altitude of the Theog region,
two to three crops are harvested and for a single crop 5-7 sprays of pesticides are
done Similarly for apples there is a protocol of 8-9 sprays. The major sprays of
insecticides Chlorphyriphos, Cypermethrin, Bavistin, Dithane, Blitox, Nativo etc.
For an area sowing 300 grams of cabbage on an average 40 litres of Chlorphyriphos
and roughly 10 litres of cypermethrin are used. One can just imagine the scale in
which these pesticides are used in the region of Theog.
Sohan, while explaining the atmosphere that gets generated after conducting a spray of insecticides in the field said, it is, at times, difficult even to breathe the air in the vegetable field. All of it(spray of insecticides) then gets mixed in air, water, plants etc. The fodder for the cattle also comes from the fields and circle of remnants of insecticides entering the human body gets completed eventually.
Professor Ghanshyam Singh Chauhan, one of the eminent scientists of the state, and
a former teacher in Chemistry department of Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla
terms the situation as highly precarious and said if proper intervention is not done a
major health crisis may hit the state soon. While explaining the reasons for such a
fear, he said there are twin forms of pesticides; organic and synthetic based
pesticides. The Theog region and for that matter the entire state is dependent upon
synthetic based pesticides as recommended by the MNCs who sell their seeds. Prof
Ghanshyam (https://youtu.be/X1UdqBZA-Ag) explained that the synthetic pesticides
have a long life span and are highly recalcitrant. These are non-biodegradable and
are more harmful for the human beings and the ecosystem.
While spraying these pesticides, there is a phenomenon called “pesticide drift” ,
which affects not just the surface meant to be targeted, but even areas beyond that.
Through the food chain then these pesticides enter the human body and there are
cases of even congenital defects in the new born babies.
It severely affects the endocrine system and is disastrous. Professor Chauhan is one
amongst those scientists who had campaigned against the use of ‘anti-hail guns’ for
its chemical properties which were highly carcinogenic. He said these pesticides are
worse than it(hail guns).
He advocates the use of bio-fertilisers which has an organic origin and shared his
vision of ‘drift management’ of sprays. He said, through the new technology in
microbial and organic chemistry, the doze of the fertilizer and pesticide can be dictated in terms of discipline and instead of a drift spray, it can be used in capsule
form to ensure that there is a direct effect.
While agreeing for a multi-disciplinary approach he argued for concerted
intervention at the behest of the government to ensure that at least a proper study is
conducted to ascertain the affects of the heavy use of pesticides and fertilisers in
vegetable and fruit production in the state and particularly in some of the potential
WELL DOCUMENTED RESEARCH
Professor Manish Gupta (https://youtu.be/OJnBUbJB5xM), presently head of
department of Radiotherapy, Cancer Hospital, IGMC, Shimla shared the details of the
patients that present in his department. He said cancer is the second most rampant
killer after cardio vascular diseases and in Himachal too the rise is acute. While
sharing some of the research papers on rise in malignancy in the state, he said the
connection between GI cancer and rampant use of pesticides is not an area that has
been ventured into. While explaining that almost 60 per cent of the cancer patients
in the hospital turn out to be lung infected where the principal cause is smoking,
nevertheless he said, this connection has to be done in a coordinated form. There
are studies that explicitly shows the interconnection between the rise in the
incidence of malignancy and the rampant use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.
He said there must be a well-documented research which should be jointly
conducted by various institutions and the government must play a pivotal role in it.
Highlighting the serious challenge that the mountain state is facing, he asserted that
an early diagnosis could prevent a large number of deaths occurring because of
There is no doubt that the state of HP especially the regions that have witnessed
shift in agri-patterns have a greater vulnerability to the hazards of exposure to
synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. What is required is an urgent intervention for an
initiative for a concerted research on the effects of indiscriminate use of pesticides
and fertilizers. The mountain state, which has a relatively clean environment and a
spartan lifestyle is in the grip of a serious crisis where the people do not even know
what they sow and reap, whether it is beneficial or harmful to them in the long run?