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Pesticide deaths in Maha: SIT wants extremely poisonous pesticide banned

SIT has suggested a statewide ban on monocrotophos pesticide, which is frequently used by farmers

mumbai Updated: Jan 19, 2018 23:26 IST
Faisal Malik
As per SIT report, pesticides were sprayed on the crop by the farmers and farmhands without taking proper precautions and safety gear.
As per SIT report, pesticides were sprayed on the crop by the farmers and farmhands without taking proper precautions and safety gear.(Representational photo/PTI)

The special investigation team (SIT) formed to investigate last year’s pesticide poisoning deaths in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha has concluded that spraying a mixture of pesticides, plant growth regulator (PGR) and fertilisers, which are not scientifically approved, is the reason which triggered the tragedy.

The SIT has now suggested a statewide ban on monocrotophos, frequently used by farmers, terming it extremely poisonous. It also suggested that a culpable homicide case be filed against those selling and manufacturing the unregistered PGR .

The SIT also found negligence on the part of quality control inspector of Yavatmal and suggested a monitoring mechanism for registration and quality inspections of pesticides and availability of antidotes.

Read: Ignorance, pesticides form a fatal alliance in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha

After more than 50 farmers died owing to pesticide poisoning, the state formed a SIT — headed by Amravati divisional commissioner — to investigate the matter and fix responsibilities. The SIT submitted its report to the state agriculture department recently. The HT has accessed the report.

As per report, pesticides were sprayed on the crop by the farmers and farmhands without taking proper precautions and safety gear, which led to poisoning. Secondly, they were using a mixture of pesticide, PGR and fertiliser, which aggravated the toxicity of the mixture.

The SIT has suggested a ban on monocrotophos, commonly used pesticides, across Maharashtra. “It was found that monocrotophos was mixed with other pesticides for spraying on the crops. This is despite the fact that it falls under the 1B category, which means extremely poisonous, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Hence we recommend an immediate ban on the pesticide,” the report states.

Monocrotophos is principally used in agriculture as it is relatively cheaper than other pesticides. However, it is also frequently used to commit suicide.

Read: Yavatmal pesticide poisoning: Farmers’ families battle death and despair

Bijay Kumar, principal secretary, state agriculture department, said they have received the report and study is on the recommendations made by the SIT. Of the recommendation made, some actions have already been taken and some need to be taken.

He said that the state government had already banned monocrotophos pesticide in five districts — Akola, Washim, Amravati, Buldhana and Yavatmal for 60 days on November 1, 2017.

“For permanent ban,we have to approach the central government. However, before doing this, we also need to explore its alternative without which the move will not remain practical,” Kumar said.

The SIT in its report added that a mandatory health certificate should be issued to farmers twice a year. Suicide cases should be filed against farmers and farmhands for using pesticides without obtaining certificates.

If a farm owner hires labourers who do not have the mandatory health certificate, her or she should also be booked for culpable homicide.

The report found that the quality control inspector conducted inspections for the sake of formality and did not follow up. The government has now ordered the agriculture commissioner to conduct investigation and submit its report, said a senior official from agriculture department.