Social media is aghast at the deathly footage of the New York killings yesterday in Manhattan when eight people were killed and more injured after an attack. It made for grisly news and everyone’s attention was caught at these senseless deaths. Yet, close at hand when Yavatmal District in Vidarbha region lost 21 farmers just about three weeks back to ignominious deaths, not many were affected in their worlds nor shaken out of their stupor.
The media is going gaga today about the World Bank assessment about India scaling up in rankings for its ease of doing business and thereby attracting foreign investments. However media correspondent Prashant Kadamb’s tweet remains a lone voice wondering if somebody will ever assess India’s ranking for ease of farming. And he quizzes “अशी कुठली देशांची क्रमवारी काढली जात नाही का जगात? की उद्योग म्हणजेच विकास अशी सर्वमान्य कल्पना आहे?”
Stating with a satirical bent he wants to know if anyone creates similar rankings for countries of the world involved in agriculture. Or is industrialization the only indicator for assessing development. His agony perhaps stems from the fact that Yavatmal lost 21 farmers, the highest toll thus far. Actually at least about 34 farmers from Vidarbha have died of poisoning. Deaths have also been registered in Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Nagpur and Bhandara!
Three pesticide companies have been booked and the Maharashtra government has registered police complaints against them. Cases have been registered against the companies and the distributors. The Krishi Seva Kendras or agro-input centers have been prohibited from selling pesticides not recommended for the region.
The agriculture department reports that highly toxic and expensive pesticide was sold to unsuspecting farmers simply to make sales and earn profits. They found that a pesticide named ‘Profex Super” locally dubbed as ‘Police’ recommended only for the sole use of sugarcane crop was made available for farmers in Yavatmal which primarily grows cotton in the region. It therefore becomes very important to educate farmers with regard to pesticides that they will be using for their crops.
Profex is an expensive and highly toxic pesticide. The farmers were misguided and told that it will be very effective for their crop and they could make more money by using it. Cases have been registered against the manufacturing companies since the uninformed farmers were for taken for a deathly ride. Even the Krishi Seva Kendras that distributed the un-recommended pesticides have been booked.
Agriculture Department officials have taken up enquiry and are also taking into account the stocking of highly toxic pesticides in the area. They have seized pesticides worth Rs 12 crores thus far. It is sad to note that in Vidarbha 32 farmers have died so far and about 800 farmers admitted to state-run hospitals for complaints of dizziness, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach-ache and blurred vision. In a bid to contain the situation the government announced ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to the family of the deceased that they may still be struggling to obtain.
The legal wrangling will now run its course with the State being taken on by Agriculture Department. Subsequently the National Human Rights Commission taking suo moto cognisance of media reports of deaths of farmers due to pesticides has sent notices to the Maharashtra government and Central Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. The commission has directed the state government to provide free treatment to people suffering from infections.
These unfair and unwarranted deaths in our rural hinterlands bring more discomfiture to the people eking out uncertain livelihoods from an ever-declining agrarian business. Companies responsible for producing such poisonous pesticides and everybody involved around them will remain guilty of these deaths. There is need to educate farmers on proper cultivation methods. We can only hope that our fellow citizens in rural areas are offered real help and not just one time sops.