New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) The NHRC has sent notices to the health ministry and Punjab government over reports that excessive use of pesticides and insecticides have allegedly left residue of heavy metals in soil and ground water, causing various diseases to the people in the Malwa region. Also Read - Coronavirus: 5 States Witness Spurt in Cases in 24 Hours, Maharashtra Extends Lockdown in 2 Districts | Key Points

The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the chief secretary of the state and secretary of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, seeking detailed report within six weeks. Also Read - COVID-19: Centre, States Discuss Fresh Spurt in Cases; Nationwide Lockdown on Cards Again?

“They have been asked to inform about the steps taken, after the year 2012, when the Commission had disposed the matter on the assurance given by the state government for an affirmative and prompt action to deal with the menace,” the NHRC said in a statement today. Also Read - Travel Guidelines For Delhi: Tourists Arriving From These States Need to Furnish a Negative COVID-19 Report

The rights panel said it has “taken suo motu cognisance of a media report about how excessive use of pesticides and insecticides have left residue of heavy metals in soil and ground water, causing various serious diseases to many people in the Malwa region of Punjab”.

The report had quoted a study conducted by the Baba Farid Centre for Special Children, as well as stories of some affected people from different villages in the region, it said.

The Commission has observed that it seems that even after lapse of a period of more than seven years, things have not moved and the people residing in the Malwa region are still suffering from various diseases, including cancer, liver failure, renal failure and birth defects.

“The negligence by the state authorities has caused grave violation of human rights of these people. Due to these diseases, poor victims are not able to lead a normal life with dignity. The insensitive approach of the administration is apparent,” the Commission said.

The state cannot leave its citizens, affected by various diseases due to soil and drinking water poisoning, to live in “undignified and traumatised conditions”, the NHRC said.

According to the report carried on January 28, it is mentioned that heavy metals are reaching the environment in “dangerous amounts” from reckless human activities due to their use in products like pesticides, herbicides, medicines, paints and cosmetics.

A study, reportedly conducted by the Baba Farid Centre for Special Children, an NGO, suggested that “heavy metals may be responsible for a steady decline in sperm count, disturbed ovulation cycles, increasing menstrual disorders, sterility, spontaneous abortions, premature births and birth defects,” the Commission said.

The report also said that to assess the damage of toxic metals, the Centre had sent urine samples of 200 autistic children to a German laboratory and the results indicated “extremely high levels of lead and nickel”.

“It is further stated that Punjab, especially the Malwa region is reeling under the ‘cocktail effect’ of heavy metals.

The Green Revolution of the 60s’ and 70s’ resulted in the dumping of dangerous chemicals such as endosulfan and these pesticides are still in use in Punjab, long after they were banned,” the NHRC said.

Earlier, in 2011 also, the Commission had taken suo motu cognisance of a report raising similar issues.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.