Skip to main content

Toxic pesticide "killed" 50 in Vidarbha in 2017: Maharashtra govt report blames it on farmers, fails to ban it

By Our Representative
A Maharashtra government-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) report has shockingly blamed farmers and farm labourers for a massive outbreak of contact poisoning by inhaling a toxic chemical cocktail during the intensified spraying of pesticides on cotton plants in order to fight the increasing menace of pests in the Vadarbha region.
While the SIT, in its report made public recently, also recommends a complete ban on monocrotophos, an organophosphate that deploys systemic and contact action on crops, which is banned in many countries due to its toxic effects on humans and birds, the Maharashtra government only complied with a limited-period ban.
Effected in November, prohibiting its sale and marketing for 60 days, the state government ban, says an investigation by the People's Archive of Rural India (PARI), set up by well-known rural journalist P Sainath, was “not enforced”.
Pointing out that “the central government has the power to ban monocrotophos in the country under the Insecticides Act”, the investigation by Jaideep Hardikar, a PARI member, says that “states too can suspend the licenses of pesticide manufacturers and sellers, or stop issuing new licenses or renewing them.”
Thus, Punjab has done this – at the end of January 2018 it decided to not issue fresh licences for 20 pesticides, including monocrotophos, which the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation classifies as “acutely hazardous.” Kerala banned monocrotophos a while ago. And Sikkim, a fully organic state, “does not allow the use of any chemical pesticide.”
SIT was set up to probe into pesticide-related deaths and illnesses in Yavatmal and other parts of Vidarbha. Constituted on October 10, 2017, and headed by Piyush Singh, the Amravati divisional commissioner, other SIT members included Dr. Vijay Waghmare, in-charge director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur, and Kiran Deshkar from the Directorate of Plant Protection, Faridabad.
The SIT report, in Marathi, submitted in December 2017, was made public only after the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court asked the state government to do so in January 2018, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by social activist and former Communist Party of India (Marxist) worker, Jammu Anand.
PARI investigation regrets, the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, has sought to underplay the tragedy caused by the pesticide, saying Maharashtra “saw 272 deaths due to pesticide poisoning in the last four years – implying that the 2017 phenomenon was not unusual”.
However, it adds, government hospital data had a different story to tell. “Going by Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) data and the accounts of the doctors who attended to the patients during the 2017 spraying period, Yavatmal had never seen accidental pesticide poisoning of that magnitude”, a PARI article says.
It adds, last year farmers into hospitals “complaining of vision loss, nausea, dizziness, nervousness, partial paralysis, panic and other symptoms”, with “at least 50 died, over 1,000 became sick, some for months.”
Giving the example of Bandu Sonule, a farm labourer, aged 40, who collapsed on his employer’s cotton field in Amdi village on September 19, 2017, after he sprayed he sprayed pesticides on cotton plants in scorching heat, PARI says, he was first admitted in a local hospital, but was later shifted to GMCH in Yavatmal in an ambulance, died on September 23.
Pointing out that most of the pesticide poisoning patients come to GMCH in Yavatmal for treatment, PARI says, those who come early and on whom the crucial cholinesterase test to detect organophosphate compounds in the blood is performed, are saved.
Things are different for others, who become sick during the July-November 2017 spraying period, and remain without test and antidote to this poisoning. For several weeks, says the report, doctors continue to treat farmers and labourers “symptomatically”, but the “crucial blood tests” are “not done at all.”

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Modi model? "Refusal" to build Narmada's micro canals, keep Kutch dry; help industry

By Medha Patkar*
This is the latest photograph of the Kutch Branch Canal (KBC) of the Sardar Sarovar, as of April 8! What does it show, expose, and what memories do you recall? Is it dry or dead? Is it a canal or a carcass of the same?

Bill Gates "promoting" GMO, Bt cotton, like cartels that have roots in Hitler's Germany

By Our Representative
World-renowned environmental leader and ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva has expressed concern that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, has joined the bandwagon of “a poison cartel of three" – Monsanto and Bayer, Syngenta and ChemChina, Dow and DuPont – all of whom allegedly have “roots in Hitler’s Germany and finding chemicals to kill people”.

Indian talc products contain "contaminated" asbestos structures, can cause cancer: Study

Counterview Desk
A recent study, using polarizing light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and X-ray analysis on multiple over-the-counter Indian talc products for the presence of asbestos, has concluded that large quantities of body talc products are likely to pose a public health risk for asbestos-related diseases, especially for the cancers related to asbestos exposure.

Why are you silent on discrimination against Dalit jawans? Macwan questions Modi

By Rajiv Shah
Close on the heels of releasing his book in Gujarati, "Bhed Bharat", which lists 319 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis across the country over the last five years, well-known Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has shot an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him the reasons why he does not want vote for the BJP.

Emergence of a rare Dalit teacher in IIT-Kanpur "disturbed" certain faculty members

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Dr Subrahmanyam Sadrela, a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur since January 1, 2018, and one of the rare Dalit members of the faculty in IIT group of institutions, is facing the threat of revocation of his PhD thesis, and thereby also jeopardizing his job and career.

Investigation shows Narmada downstream "seriously" polluted. Reason: apathy, greed

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant, Swati Desai*
Our investigation regarding quality of water flowing in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), dated April 6, 2019, between 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. reiterates, what is commonly known now, that the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is planned without considering its impact on the downstream Narmada River stretch of 161 kilometres, its ecology, biodiversity and fishery, and lakhs of people living close to and dependent on the river directly or indirectly. This, in turn, has led to its present disastrous state.

RTE in remote areas? Govt of India "plans" to close down 2.4 lakh schools

By Srijita Majumder*
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, came into effect on April 1, 2010, for the first time made it obligatory on the part of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from 6-14 years of age in India. The Act, despite its limitations, had progressive elements like neighbourhood schools, community participation, ban on corporal punishment, no detention, continuous and comprehensive evaluation and it hence it appeared that India was not far from achieving universal elementary education.

Election Commission suffering from worst-ever "credibility crisis": Ex-bureaucrats

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, a group of ex-bureaucrats have lamented ‘weak-kneed’ responses of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Citing various violations of the model code of conduct, and pointing towards how ECI has taken little action, the letter asks the President to tell ECI to “conduct itself in a manner where its independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are not questioned.”