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

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Evolution of Sardar Patel's understanding of those 'involved' in Gandhi's assassination

By Shamsul Islam*  As the world mourns the 73rd anniversary of MK Gandhi's assassination by Hindutva terrorists on January 30, 1948, RSS, the most prominent flag-bearer of Hindutva politics, whose cadres rule India today, is found reacting angrily to the reality – that the criminals who assassinated Gandhiji were not only part of the ideological world-view of Hindu Mahasabha (led by VD Savarkar) and RSS brand of Hindu nationalism but were also connected with these. 

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.

Whither right to food? Social security scheme allocation for woman, child 'reduced'

Counterview Desk Pointing out that women and children have been ignored in the Union Budget 2021-22, the advocacy group Right to Food Campaign (RtFC) has said that the Government of India should have taken into account the fact that even after the lockdown was lifted, distress among marginalized communities continues, with people having lower incomes and reduced food consumption.