New Delhi. In the last three months, over 35 farmers have reportedly died and hundreds become ill due to pesticide poisoning in several districts of Vidharba region in Maharashtra.
The incidents of death of farmers caused by inhalation of toxic pesticide while spraying it on the fields have been reported from Yavatmal, Nagpur, Akola and Amravati districts. Hundreds of others have become ill due to poisoning for pesticide.
New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has alleged that such deaths and illnesses are due to faulty pesticide management policy of the government at the centre and states. “The death of farmers in Maharashtra due to pesticide poisoning is because of the gross negligence in pesticide management in the country. This negligence has led to pesticide poisoning becoming a chronic problem,” said CSE deputy director Chandra Bhushan.
Around 10,000 cases of pesticide poisoning are reported from across the country every year. Around 7,000 people died due to accidental intake of insecticides or pesticides in 2015. Bhushan said the Union ministry of agriculture and agricultural departments of the states must take the blame for the unsafe use of pesticide by the farmers. “Deaths and illnesses due to pesticides can be avoided if we can urgently fix some of the crucial gaps in our regulations and improve its enforcement,” he said.
India still allows the use of toxic pesticides such as Monocrotophos and Phosphamidon, which are banned in 60 and 49 countries respectively, though fully knowing that they are hazardous.
According to CSE, WHO considers pesticides like Monocrotophos and Oxydemeton-methyl as class I pesticides, which are further categorised into extremely hazardous class Ia and highly hazardous class Ib. India allows at least 18 class I pesticides to be used in the country.
The Union ministry of agriculture and farmer’s welfare is expected to ban only three out of these 18 pesticides from the next year, on the basis of a review report by Anupam Verma Committee in 2015. Interestingly, the committee had proposed to ban only seven pesticides after reviewing only 11 of the 18. The other four are expected to be banned from 2021.
CSE said while the recommendations of the Anupam Verma Committee are not adequate, its implementation of banning the class I toxic pesticides lack urgency.
Over the last several years, CSE has highlighted the gaps in pesticide management in the country.
CSE, over the last several years, has highlighted gaps in pesticide management in the country. In 2013, the organisation reviewed India’s 11 major crops including paddy, wheat, potato, cauliflower, mango, apple, sugarcane and cotton and found that the pesticide recommendations made by state agriculture universities, agriculture departments and other boards for a crop did not adhere to the pesticides that the Central Insecticides Board and Registered Committee (CIBRC) has registered for those crops.
“Till we reform our pesticides regulations and regulatory institutions, pesticide poisoning and accidental deaths would continue. A Pesticide Management Bill was introduced in the Parliament in 2008 but was allowed to be lapsed. We need a new Pesticide Management Bill to address the issues related to unsafe use of pesticides,” said Bhushan.