Nagpur: Yavatmal district which is known as producer of “white gold” (cotton) has acquired dubious distinction. The district is hogging the limelight not because of farmer suicides but this time “deaths due to inhaling pesticides”.
As usual the media remained complacent, for it this incident doesn’t qualify to be national news. The plight of the farmers at the grassroots is worsening every passing day. Spraying pesticide is not new to the farmers and as well as for those who spray. It is one of the integral functioning of farming. The question is what made them to die. As per the latest reports, 7 to 9 deaths took place and more than 400 got affected. Of them, 50 are presently admitted in the Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College and Hospital, Yavatmal.
For the last three months, cases of pesticide poisoning because of inhalation are being reported, but for the government machinery it was a routine thing. The machinery got woke up only after some deaths were reported. As a routine practice a team was sent to assess the situation and find out the reason as well. A series of meetings started holding. Government officials are busy in writing reports and sending them to their higher ups. Thick skinned established political class is unperturbed of the incident. A team of 4-member volunteers representing Aam Aadmi Party visited government hospital on September 28, 2017 and met the victims and their families, Dean of the Hospital and Deputy Director, Department of Agriculture, Yavatmal. Collector was busy in series of meeting hence AAP team could not meet. The team consisted of Bhai Jammu Anand, Arif Dosani, Ravikant Wagh and Atish Taywade. The reasons put forward by the officials were very simple and that is this time the cotton crop has grown up to a very high level and because of the irregular rains the attack of bollworms is very frequent and massive. As a result, the farmers went for more doses of pesticide spray.
The academicians and agro-scientists now are opining that wrong combination and faulty use of pesticides and spraying without any protective are being attributed as the the apparent reasons for the death of sprayers. It is disgusting and shameful. Is it that the district administration, agricultural department, agro-scientists and the academicians were waiting for the deaths of the farmers knowing fully that the region has received less rains and that also very irregular? Why they were silent all these days? Why they could not gauge “the would” be impact on crops and especially on cotton crop? Why the government failed to take corrective steps and educate the farmers what should they do and not in such situation?
It was deliberate silence which has given a free hand to exploit the situation by the pesticide manufacturing companies. The cotton farmers who are already in distress were once again allowed to get exploited by these companies by the most insensitive state government and spinelessness local administration. Is it not a shame that companies reach out to millions of farmers who are spread over more than 2500 villages of Yavatmal rather than the government? This time the cotton was sowed in 4.66 lakh hectares covering 17 blocks. The number of farmers who have cultivated cotton are 4.17 lakh. Off which 28,640 are marginalized farmers, 1,61,227 are small farmers and 2,27,535 are medium farmers. The irrigation of Yavatmal district in the year 2006 was hardly 9 per cent which now has increased to about 14 per cent. The pathetic situation is that there are hardly 316 agricultural assistants to cater to the need of more than 4 lakh cotton growers of the district.
Because of the pesticide poisoning the sprayers lost their wages. They used to earn Rs. 200 a day. What happened to the tall claims made by the BT cotton seed companies that the seeds are bollworms resistant? If it was true then who prescribed for more doses of pesticides? Whatever may be the situation the companies are better placed, they exploit farmers and make huge profits. Finally who are to be blamed for farmers and farm labourers’ deaths? The government, local bureaucracy or companies? The government is squarely to be blamed. Government should immediately announce compensation to the farmers and farm labourers who have died, and those who have been hospitalized. The local administration should immediately lodge police complaint against the seed companies and as well as pesticide companies for misleading farmers.