The state government Tuesday ordered a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into the death of farmers due to inhalation of pesticides while spraying them on cotton crop in Yavatmal district in Maharashtra and promised strict action against those found guilty.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “The SIT will probe the farmers’ deaths. Charges of culpable homicide will be slapped against pesticide companies if found guilty.” The investigation will look into all parameters and all those responsible would be dealt with strictly, he said. The role of all involved in the business of pesticides — manufacturers, dealers, suppliers including those online — would be thoroughly scrutinised, he added.
Terming the death of farmers as unfortunate, he said, “The government has initiated measures to provide and train farmers to adopt protective gears such as masks and gloves while spraying pesticides.” The primary angle being looked into is the possibility of use of lethal chemicals in pesticides, which could have led to the tragedy.
After spraying pesticide, almost 18 farmers died and 800 landed in hospitals complaining of uneasiness. However, the number of farmers being admitted to hospitals declined by Tuesday. The agriculture department has sent two teams to assess the situation. The services of the agriculture research institute have been roped in to get to the root cause and provide solutions. The primary report submitted to the government stated, “This year, cotton plant grown has been higher. As a result, use of pesticides was 30 per cent more compared to the previous years.”
The incident has also brought to light how farmers and workers handle pesticides without any protective measures.
Chief of the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawlamban Mission — a farmers’ task force — Kishore Tiwari said, “The Yavatmal farmers’ deaths should be an eye-opener for the government. The state government should immediately ban multinationals promoting lethal pesticides for their business.”
While describing it as “genocide”, he said, “The centre and the state should immediately disallow use of any toxic chemicals in pesticides.” Earlier, the state government had announced that Rs 2 lakh compensation would be paid to families of the deceased farmers and that all medical expenditure of farmers under treatment will be borne by the government.
The incident has led the government to scrutinise recommendations of pesticide firms that prescribe formulae to farmers to enhance quality and quantity of crops. According to a district official, “Often, farmers are guided by the companies to increase the amount of pesticides to increase crop productivity.”