The curious case of pesticide related farmer deaths in Eastern Maharashtra just got murkier. While 18 farmers have died and 800 others have been admitted to hospitals across Akola, Yavatmal, Buldhana, Amravati, Nagpur and Bhandara districts, it has now come to light that most of these deaths were preventable.
Image: Amir Rizvi
The farmers died from poisoning due to exposure to excessively toxic pesticides that should have never entered the local market. This suggests that regulating authorities were either incompetent or complicit in the entry and easy availability of unlicensed pesticides, many of which contain highly toxic chemicals.
The provisions mentioned in the Insecticides Act, 1968 clearly state that “All insecticides have to go through a Registration Process with the Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee (CIB & RC) before they can be made available for use or sale.” So there are a few big questions that need to be asked. Who is manufacturing these dangerous pesticides? Why are the manufacturers not prevented from manufacturing unlicensed pesticides in the first place? How are unlicensed pesticides entering the market? What is being done to stop the distribution and sale of such pesticides? Who killed our Indian farmers?
MS Gholap, Director of Agriculture (Input and Quality Control), Yavatmal District washed his hands off any responsibility. “The crop is tall. So when the farmers spray the pesticides, some of it falls on them and they also end up inhaling some of it,” he said to CJP, offering a flimsy explanation for how the farmers came into contact with the toxins. Gholap didn’t stop there and even went on to blame the farmers for failing to wear protective gear like masks and gloves while spraying. “The pesticides are colour coded blue, green, yellow and red based on toxicity, with yellow and red denoting the highest levels of toxicity. The farmers should choose less toxic pesticides,” he said. He further alleged that farmers failed to train and educate their farm labourers about usage, correct method of spraying as well as protective measures.
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