INDIAN FARMERS’ LIVES COME CHEAP FOR GOVERNMENTS & INDUSTRY FACT-FINDING REPORT ON PESTICIDE POISONINGS IN YAVATMAL DISTRICT, MAHARASHTRA
The full fact finding report can be downloaded here: http://indiaforsafefood.in/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/pesticidepoisoning-yavatmal-FFT-report-oct12-2017.pdf
The above is the report of a fact finding team that tried to probe further into the recent unfortunate and preventable episode of dozens of deaths and hundreds of hospitalisations of farmers(includes farm workers) in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra due to PESTICIDE POISONING. This report is mainly from the team’s field visit to Yavatmal and it appears that the situation seen there can be surmised to some extent for the situation in other districts too.
Fact-finding visit dates: 9th and 10th October 2017
Team Members: Kavitha Kuruganti; Rahul Bole; Swati Sagare; Shankar Amilkanthavar; Karthikeyan Hemalatha (freelance writer); Sahebrao Namdevrao Parode. Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), Dharamitra, Chetna Organic and Nagpur Beejotsav Group were the groups/organisations involved in taking up this fact-finding visit.
- Kalamb and Aarni blocks of Yavatmal district, to meet with families of 3 dead victims of pesticide poisonings and 3 hospitalised cases. (Cases of death: Gajanan Fulmali of Sawargaon village, Kalamb; Devidas Madavi of Kalamb; Deepak Shamrao Madavi of Sendhursani village, Aarni block. Cases of hospitalisations, after discharge: Shrikant Nikhare, Mangesh Shravan Thakre and Manoj Pundlikrao Sarade).
- Kalamb Police Station
- Two pesticide dealers (one in Yavatmal – Sudhir bhau Sarode of Metikheda Krishi Sewa Kendra and another in Jawada – Suresh Jillewar of Balaji Krishi Kendra)
- Vasantrao Naik Medical College & Hospital, Yavatmal (specifically, the Head of the Department of Medicine Dr B S Yelke)
- Agriculture Department officials, incl. R S Patil, Deputy Director.
OUR CONCLUSIONS & DEMANDS
It appears that the lives of farm workers and farmers are of no value at all in this country. Their Right to Life (and Livelihood), which is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India is being violated routinely with no accountability fixed on the government and concerned agencies for such violation.
No surveillance and data systems exist, including hospital based surveillance, to monitor pesticide poisonings, that too separately for occupational poisoning (inhalation), accidental poisoning and intentional poisoning (ingestion by oral route).
It is worth noting that this is not the first time that such an episode is unfolding with regard to pesticide poisoning, and this seems to be a recurring feature that has been ignored callously by the administration.
There is a systemic failure in anticipating the situation and controlling a highly preventable and unconscionable situation. There is total lack of coordination and communication between different departments that should have acted to prevent such poisonings. There is also a pathetic lack of adoption of frontier, post-modern science of pest management which shuns the use of hazardous technologies and adopts an agro-ecological approach.
It is also clear that the failure to prevent this situation lies at all levels of the government, including with the Government of India for having continued with bannable pesticides.
Farmers and their use of hazardous technologies is getting more and more desperate in the country – this is apparent with pesticides and GM seeds and the rampant misuse, with regulators and others turning a blind eye to the developing/unfolding problem.
It is clear that end use regulation is not going to be possible since there is no existing mechanism or possible mechanism by which the use of the pesticide by the buyer, after the product leaves the retailer, can be monitored and regulated.
The complacency that was apparent everywhere with dangerous mixtures of pesticides is clearly alarming.
While we are discussing acute pesticide poisoning at this point of time, the fact finding team can clearly anticipate chronic health and environmental problems that are bound to emerge sooner or later, especially with the illegal use of herbicide tolerant GM cotton.
Given all the above, the fact finding team demands the following:
- A full survey needs to be taken up by the Government of all the poisoning cases (not just of death), and past data should also be analysed by culling out inhalation poisoning cases in the hospital records of Vidarbha districts. This should help the government to understand the scale of the problem, the chemicals involved, the particular conditions which caused this unfortunate episode to unfold etc.
- This should also be used to extend full and free medical treatment for all the affected persons, as well as comprehensive rehabilitation of the families as per the need.
- Further, data systems should be created to capture the problem in all its dimensions at least from now on.
- Government of India should ban immediately all those pesticides that are implicated in the poisoning cases here, as well as those pesticides that have been banned or elsewhere, to begin with. There are no scientific or moral grounds on which this cannot, or will not be done.
- Government of Maharashtra should immediately revoke licenses of sales of these pesticides in the state, like Kerala government has done, without waiting for a ban decision from the government of India. This is very much possible at the state government level.
- Government of Maharashtra should immediately invest on, and promote large scale agro-ecological approaches to pest management, and lend the required capacities and confidence to farmers to adopt the same. It should take the active help of practising organic farmers in the state and elsewhere for the same.
7. Government of Maharashtra should immediately enhance the ex-gratia amount to Rs. 10 lakhs at least per family which had lost a breadwinner to pesticide poisoning, and also rehabilitate all the affected. It should reimburse full treatment costs for all affected. These monies should subsequently be collected from the pesticide companies for having caused the problem in the first instance.
 Some photos from the fact finding visit are available at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/upvO
 as per India’s National Policy for Farmers 2007, this term includes Farm Workers