Yavatmal pesticide deaths: SIT blames farmers for negligence

Published - January 27, 2018 08:44 pm IST

NAGPUR: The Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Maharashtra government to probe the death of farmers in Yavatmal district after spraying pesticide, has blamed the farmers and farm labourers for “their failure to follow safety measures.”

Twenty-one farmers and farm labourers had died and around 1,000 others were infected in Yavatmal between the months of August to November last year after they sprayed pesticide on the cotton crop.

The state government had announced compensation for the families of the deceased and appointed a seven-member SIT led by Amravati divisional commissioner (revenue). In its 56-page report, a copy of which is available with The Hindu , the SIT has termed the deaths as “a man-made disaster”.

“The cotton plants grew 1.5 feet taller, to around six feet, because of lack of rain in June, July and August [of 2017]. The humidity in the atmosphere had also increased. The cotton crop had high density. The pest attack on the cotton crop, the hostile weather, and changes in the atmosphere saw an increase in the spraying of pesticide. As the cotton plants were taller, those spraying pesticides had to lift the spraying pumps above their height as a result of which they inhaled the particles of pesticides. The pesticides should be sprayed in the morning or in evening but it was found that the spraying was done between 9 am to 6 pm and on consecutive days. The humidity was 10% higher last year which resulted in the pesticide spreading to other body parts of the farmers because of sweat. It was found that the chances of causing infection increased as the farmers and the farm labourers did not use the protective gears like masks, hand gloves, caps, goggles or apron,” the report observed.

The SIT also pointed out that most of the infected farmers and farm laborers sprayed the pesticide without covering their upper body or mouth.

The SIT also blamed the local Krishi Seva Kendra (the local distributor of agriculture-related products) and the farmers for using “cheaper and unscientific mixtures of pesticides” which had increased the concentration of the pesticides.

The report said the use of high-volume spraying pumps, common in Yavatmal district, also contributed to the “more than normal use of pesticides.”

It has recommended a ban on monocrotophos and asked regulating authorities not to give licence for the sale of any chemical for which antidotes are not available.

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