A hound on the pound

  • 30/07/2002

Trailing the pesticide industry for murky revelations was a crazy whirl. I had to change roles so often I wondered sometimes who I was. In a single day, I would move from being an earnest researcher, an enthusiastic management trainee, a curious freelance journalist, pleasant public relations professional or just me, a Down To Earth (dte) reporter.

One day, like every juggler who slips up, I too cracked. To my utter horror and dismay, I found myself sliding into a part I wasn't playing just then. I was in Kerala and had introduced myself as a researcher to a retired government official. He had spoken to me comfortably for a long while. So while leaving, I told him I would send him a copy of the magazine. "What magazine,' he thundered suspiciously. Instantly, I realised my gaffe. I babbled that I sometimes wrote papers for small research journals, and that I'd send him a copy if the information he had given me was used in any article. He allowed me to leave only after I swore not to use his name.

It was never easy to report on the mighty pesticide industry. I knew that going around as a dte reporter was not going to get me anywhere. I had to become one of them and learn to speak their language. Initial forays saw me as a researcher trying to understand how the industry functioned. But there was always the danger of not getting to the meaty parts of this controversial story as a harmless researcher, or being denied all access if I posed as a journalist. So, I built up a repertoire of many professions, including that of an eager job seeker. This disguise, in particular, worked rather well. But as the story unfolded, with knowledge came confidence, and I simply started to barge into offices and homes of people as a dte reporter trying to uncover the endosulfan conspiracy. It worked! The immediate reward was a ban on endosulfan use in certain plantations in Kerala. The fight continues.
(See also: Endosulfan Conspiracy)