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

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Corporatizing Indian agriculture 'to enhance' farmer efficiency, market competitiveness

By Shashank Shukla*  Today, amidst the ongoing farmers' protest, one of the key demands raised is for India to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Let us delve into the feasibility of such a move and explore its historical context within India's globalization trajectory.

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Livelihood issues return to national agenda ahead of LS polls: SKM on Bharat Bandh

Counterview Desk  Top farmers' network, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has claimed big success of Grameen Bharat Bandh and industrial /sectoral strikes, stating, the “struggle reflected anger of farmers, workers and rural people across India”, adding, the move on February 16 succeeded in bringing back peoples’ livelihood issues in the national agenda just ahead of the general election to the Lok Sabha.

How retraints were imposed on academic freedom on the IIM-Ahmedabad campus

By Sandeep Pandey*  This is the seventh consecutive academic year when I would have gone as a visiting faculty member to the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad to teach an Elective course on Transformational Social Movements to the second year of Post Graduate Programme students. But the invitation has not come so far and it looks like it is the end of my teaching stint at IIM, at least, so long as the Bhartiya Janata Party remains in power at the centre.

Supreme Court Bar Association letter to CJI 'meant to defame' protesting farmers

By Prem Singh*  Have we ceased to be a wakeful and sensitive civil society and instead have become the horns of parties, leaders and governments? Whatever profession we are in, have we lost all respect for our responsibility and dignity?  It is understandable that a pro-corporate government should launch a campaign to defame the farmers from the very first day of its agitation against the government's apathy to their long-pending demands. Because it considers the people of the country, especially the hardworking farmers, labourers, artisans, unemployed and underemployed, not as citizens but as subjects who live at the mercy of the government.  But the professional noblemen of the civil society should defame the farmers in an organizational manner -- this explains our fall as a civil society.  It is a matter of utmost regret that the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association has written a letter to the Chief Justice demanding that he take suo motu cognizance of the “erring” far