Explanation sought for article ‘Endosulfan issue an intellectual disaster’
In what is perceived by academics as a gag order, Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) has sought explanation from K.M. Sreekumar, Professor of Agricultural Entomology at its College of Agriculture in Padannakkad, for writing an article in a Malayalam daily dubbing as unscientific many of the perceptions about the effects of endosulfan in Kasaragod.
Dr. Sreekumar was served the notice dated August 24 seeking within 10 days his explanation for the article published on August 2. According to the notice, his views in the article ‘Endosulfan prashnam vaijnjanika durantham’ (Endosulfan issue an intellectual disaster) are likely to be misconstrued as the KAU’s views. Moreover, the university’s prior permission was not sought for publishing the article.
“I will give a satisfactory explanation in a couple of days,” Dr. Sreekumar told The Hindu. He said his article was meant to counter an earlier article published in the same paper holding KAU scientists responsible for the spraying of endosulfan over cashew plantations in the district.
Dr. Sreekumar has co-authored the scientific paper ‘Whither science on the Endosulfan issue?’ and been publicly challenging the ‘unscientific perceptions about the effects of the pesticide’. In an interview to The Hindu in June, he had said 6,793 patients affected by 300 types of diseases were classified as those hit by endosulfan spraying and that even common ailments were classified as endosulfan-related.
“Academicians in a university can have opinions on any of such issues and sometimes they can be contradictory, but they should have the freedom to present their views in society,” K.P. Aravindan, former president, Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad, wrote on his Facebook page. Instead of silencing him, the questions raised by Dr. Sreekumar should be given science-based answers, he said.
“It is the duty of university teachers to raise their differing views,” said B. Ekbal, academic and member of the Kerala State Planning Board, in his Facebook post. “The KAU authorities should not try to create in the universities in the Kerala the current atmosphere of intolerance in Central universities and others,” he wrote.
The KAU’s explanation has drawn disapproval among agricultural scientists for its assumption that Dr. Sreekumar’s views contradict the stand of the university on the endosulfan issue. The KAU, in fact, has no official policy on the endosulfan issue, they say.