Mumbai: A Maharashtra government panel for farmers on Tuesday sought the NITI Aayog’s urgent intervention to ensure discussions with all stakeholders before bringing about the changes in the proposed Pesticide Management Bill, 2017.
The proposed Bill would be introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission (VNSSM) Chairman Kishore Tiwari has written to the NITI Aayog that unless all the stakeholders are involved, the bill would fail to reflect the crises in the farmlands which have claimed the lives of more than 40 farmers in Maharashtra alone due to inhaling fumes of toxic pesticides.
“The deaths of farmers here is due to gross negligence in pesticide management in the country, which is now becoming a chronic problem. Every year, there are around 10,000 cases of pesticide poisoning and in 2015, more than 7,000 died due to accidental intake of insecticides/pesticides,” Tiwari wrote to the NITI Aayog.
Holding the Ministry of Agriculture (both central and state) solely responsible for the unsafe use of pesticides, he said the deaths can be prevented if some crucial gaps in the regulations and their implementation are fixed on priority.
“The matter was discussed with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis this week in detail and he has assured to raise it with the Centre, especially since Maharashtra is witnessing so many deaths,” Tiwari said.
The VNSSM pointed out how deadly pesticides like Monocrotophos, Oxydemeton-Methyl, Acephate and Profenofos are allegedly responsible for the deaths and illnesses in the state.
The pesticides Monocrotophos and Oxydemeton-Methyl are considered Class I hazardous pesticides by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and further classified as extremely hazardous (IA) and highly hazardous (IB).
He said the classification is based on acute toxicity of pesticide-active ingredients and since Class I pesticides can be fatal even at a very low dose, they are banned in many countries.
For instance, Monocrotophos is banned in 60 countries, Phorate in 37 nations, Traizophos in 40 nations and Phosphamidon in 49 countries but in India, their use continues.
“In 2015-2016, eighteen types of hazardous pesticides were allowed to be used in India, including 7,717 tonnes of technical grade and 2,254 tonnes Class I, without bothering to comply with the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, released by WHO and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), warning of extreme precautions to be exercised by the handlers,” Tiwari said.
However, since it is impossible for the small farmers to make use of personal protective equipment, he said the Class I hazardous pesticides should have been banned long ago in India.
Interestingly, the VNSSM’s letter to the NITI Aayog comes a day after former Union Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar slammed the central as well as state governments for the easy availability of deadly pesticides which have claimed so many lives in the state.