Three pesticide companies find themselves in the dock after at least 32 farmers from Vidarbha died of poisoning in the past few days. The Maharashtra government registered a police complaint against the firms and Krishi Seva Kendras or agro-input centres for selling pesticides not recommended for the region.Yavatmal district lost 19 farmers — the highest toll so far — but deaths also were registered in Akola, Amravati, Buldana, Nagpur and Bhandara.State agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar on Monday held a meeting with seeds and pesticide manufacturing companies. “Pesticides that were not recommended or the ones that were not meant for the crop were distributed and used. Therefore, cases have been registered against companies and the distributors,” he said.It is the duty of local agriculture authorities to educate the farmers about pesticides and other inputs to be used for their crops. The agriculture department found a highly toxic and expensive pesticide was being sold to unsuspecting farmers in a bid to earn profits. State agriculture department officials said the pesticide called ‘police’, which is recommended only for sugarcane crop, was sold in Yavatmal, a cotton-growing region in the state.“One such pesticide with trade name ‘police’ is being sold in Yavatmal; it is recommended only used for sugarcane. It is expensive and highly toxic. They misguide the farmers and tell them this will be highly effective for their crop and make money out of it. Cases have been registered against companies because they cannot take farmers for a ride,” said Bijay Kumar, principal secretary, state agriculture department.Kumar said agro-input centres, which distributed pesticides that were not recommended, have also been booked. Yavatmal district police have registered cases of sudden death and began an investigation. “Based on the inspection by the agriculture department, we have registered cases against the centres that sold these pesticides. We have lodged seven first information reports,” said M Raj Kumar, superintended of police, Yavatmal district.The agriculture department of the state also cracked down on illegal stocking of highly toxic pesticides in Akola district and have seized pesticides worth Rs 12 crore, Kumar said.Across Vidarbha region, 32 farmers have died and close to 800 farmers have been admitted to state-run hospitals after they complained of dizziness, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach-ache, difficulty in seeing, etc. The government has also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the family of the deceased.Activists said the problem would not have worsened if a proper investigation had been carried out into deaths last year.