The Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the state government to probe the deaths of farmers and farm labourers in Yavatmal and other districts of Vidarbha, allegedly due to accidental pesticide inhalation, Thursday submitted its report to Agriculture Minister Pandurang Phundkar. The SIT had taken about two months for completing its task.
Sources told The Indian Express that contrary to speculation about pressure from the pesticides lobby, the effect of pesticides forms the core of the findings of the SIT. “All facts were carefully examined on a scientific basis to draw the inferences,” a senior official said, refusing to divulge specific details.
The probe team was headed by Amravati Divisional Commissioner Piyush Singh. Subhash Nagre, Joint Director (Agriculture), Amravati Division, Nitin Ambadkar, Deputy Director (Health Services), Akola, Kiran Deshmukh, Member of Central Insecticides Board, Vijay Waghmare, Acting Director of Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) and Dhanraj Undirwade, entomologist from Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, Akola, were members of the SIT. Umbrella organisation of pesticide and insecticide manufacturers, Crop Care Foundation of India, had claimed that presides were not responsible for the deaths.
“No pressure from any quarter had any influence on the committee,” the official said. It is gathered the probe panel has listed extra height gained by cotton crop, widespread use of pesticide cocktails, high-density plantation, non-use of protective gear while spraying, etc. as factors.