K. Venkateshwarlu

Confirmation is contained in Government's response to NHRC notice

  • Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, an NGO, has petitioned National Human Rights Commission
  • State Government has come out with a slew of measures to check the pesticide menace

    HYDERABAD: After dodging the issue for several years, the State Government has finally acknowledged that several farm workers have indeed fallen prey to exposure from pesticides and has come out with a slew of measures to check the menace.

    The confirmation is contained in the Government's response to the notice served by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on a petition filed by the NGO, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. Though the NHRC closed the case recently saying "no further intervention is required as the Government had initiated appropriate action", the Government's action taken report submitted to the NHRC is significant on other counts.

    "For the first time, the Government acknowledged the existence of the problem which it was avoiding all these years. It was forced to constitute a five-member committee headed by a Special Chief Secretary (Revenue) to study the issue. The Government had to concede payment of compensation under Apathbandhu scheme to the widows of the victims. It is another issue that most of the other measures have not been implemented," said G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director of CSA.

    Eight deaths

    In their well-documented petition Dr. Ramanjaneyulu and Kavita Kuruganti, activist of the CSA, had highlighted the fact that eight farmers lost their lives and 202 hospitalised between 2004-05 crop year in Warangal district. They had monitored the cases in six area hospitals including the headquarter hospital in Warangal town. They wanted the Government to put in place a proper mechanism based on hospital surveillance and outside through a system monitored by Panchayat Raj institutions.

    Responding, the Government asked all the hospitals and primary health centres to take up intensive educational campaign to encourage farm workers to take precautions. They have been asked to ensure availability of antidotes, display treatment protocols, prompt treatment in all poisonous cases and record clearly categorising them into accidental and suicidal. To minimise the morbidity and mortality, the Medical and Health Department called for reducing the concentration of pesticides and wearing of protective masks by farm workers.

    Disappointment

    But Ms. Kavita says she is disappointed both with the NHRC letting the Government off the hook and the slew of measures announced by the Government in June this year, which have failed to take off. Nor the Government had agreed to ban the harmful pesticides. The figures put out by it on reducing pesticide consumption were questionable as all it did was to replace high volume low cost pesticides with low volume high value ones.