Rights Body Asks Centre, Maharashtra For Report On Pesticide Poisoning

Over a month, at least 20 farmers died and nearly 100 had to be hospitalized following exposure to pesticides during the spraying of cotton crops.

YAVATMAL, MAHARASHTRA:  The Maharashtra government and the Centre have been asked to file a report on the pesticide poisonings in the state’s Yavatmal district, in which at least 20 farmers have died. The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to top officials of the state and the Centre, who have been given a month to file the report.

“The Chief Secretary of the State Government has also been directed to ensure that the best treatment is provided free of cost to the farmers,” read a statement from the Commission.

Over a month, at least 20 farmers died and nearly 100 had to be hospitalized following exposure to pesticides during the spraying of cotton crops. While rules say farmers will be provided protection gear during the spray of pesticides, these have been flouted in the cotton belt of Yavatmal. Many farmers also ignore the instructions about precautions on pesticide packets, because of the cost of procuring the protection kits.

Following the incident, the government issued guidelines and ordered a probe. With several farm labourers still in hospital, there is also a push for safer pesticides.

Activist Kishor Tiwari, who is the president of Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban — a welfare body for farmers set up by the Maharashtra government — has appealed to the state administration to stop the use of harmful products.
“Farmers, agricultural departments and pesticide companies need to take note of the seriousness of this issue and if the state does not ban such toxic and chemical pesticides, there will be a rise in farmer fatalities due to these chemical fertilizers. We appeal to the state to support the use of non-poisonous and herbal pesticides,” Mr Tiwari told reporters.

His comments were made in the presence of HR Gaikwad, Chairman and Managing Director, BVG Life Sciences Ltd, who actually consumed the herbal pesticide to prove its harmlessness.

“The last decade has seen a rapid growth in the death rate among farmers and this has largely been attributed to the excessive use of pesticides… this will further escalate if the issue is not addressed immediately,” Mr Gaikwad said.

“We urge the state to test and use the 100 per cent agro-herbal products that are natural, non-toxic, food safe and non-carcinogenic,” he added.

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