The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Monday issued a notice to the Maharashtra government, taking suo motu action following reports of deaths of cotton cultivators in Yavatmal district due to pesticides. At least 32 cotton growers have succumbed to pesticide spray in the last three months, and 14 of the farmers were from nearby districts of Yavatmal. The state government has announced a compensation of Rs 12 lakh for the families of the deceased farmers.
“The commission has issued notices to the chief secretary, Government of Maharashtra and the secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks,” the notice said.
The NHRC also directed the chief secretary to provide free treatment to farmers hospitalised due to pesticide reaction. “He has been asked to inform about the steps taken to stop recurrence of such incidents and the action against the guilty officers,” the notice further read.
According to the state agriculture minister, the farmers who sprayed pesticide on cotton crops did not wear protective gear before entering the fields. Observing that right to life and livelihood of farmers had been violated, NHRC stated that the farmers should have been well informed about hazards of technology.
“The commission has observed that most of the farmers in the country are not adequately literate and rely on government agencies for safe use of agricultural products and ancillary techniques. The farmers have fallen prey to the callous and negligent attitude of government departments,” the notice said.