The chief of Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawlamban Mission, a state government task force, Kishor Tiwari has termed the pesticide inhalation deaths of farmers and farm labourers in Vidarbha as “genocide committed by state” and has sought strict criminal action against manufacturers of these pesticides as well as “corrupt government officials working hand-in-glove with them”.
Addressing a press conference in Nagpur on Monday, Tiwari said over 40 farmers have died while over 2,000 were hospitalised due to passive inhalation of pesticides in Vidarbha and Marathwada. “This is genocide being committed by state and pesticide manufacturing companies. Government officials operating in complete violation of the Insecticides Act are alone responsible for it,” he said, calling for “strict criminal action against them.” Tiwari also went on to term these officials as “haramkhor“, who he said, “should be beaten up with shoes.”
Tiwari alleged that the pesticide business is controlled by three multinational companies, their agents in India and the officials who help them. He demanded that chemical farming should be completely stopped and organic farming should be promoted “in the manner in which it is being done in Sikkim.”
He asked, “Why are the officials taking hafta (bribe) from the pesticide companies not being sent home?” He also said, “Health and agriculture universities and research centres, as well as agriculture officials in charge of implementing farm policies are directly or indirectly responsible for this hatyakaand (genocide).”
He rubbished the claim that factors like extra height gained by the cotton crop, excessive heat and new spray pumps are responsible for the deaths. “Wrong government policies and rotten government systems are responsible for the tragedy,” he added.
Tiwari also flagged the issue of illegal roundup BT cotton stealthily brought in from Gujarat. “This has been grown on ten lakh hectares. The pests affecting it, atmospheric changes, excessive use of atropine to treat the affected people, leading to brain, kidney and eyesight damage are some of the contributing factors for the tragedy,” he said. Tiwari has also sent a report to the government and has made some recommendations.
Asked as to when would he resign in case the state government doesn’t listen to his pleas (as had been declared by him), Tiwari said, “We have a Chief Minister from Vidarbha and he is a good CM. He listens to us. What will we do if we have someone from west Maharashtra returning as CM again?” He added, “I am not a part of the government. I am here to pinch the government whenever required and am a phukat (free) employee of the government. My directives are being ignored by some officials. But I am not wearing bangles.”
Immediate ban on chemical farming and Rs 25,000 per hectare grant to farmers for five years for natural farming
Government purchase of entire poison-less (vishmukt) produce
Immediate ban on foreign varieties of cotton
100 pc supply of Desi cottonseeds by state agriculture universities, research centres and Mahabeej
Compulsion of herbal and cow urine-based insecticides
Marketing system and credit supply for sale of poison-less food at village level
A separate police-administration machinery to prevent exploitation of farmers by those selling seeds, chemicals and plant-growth controllers