46 dead in Vidarbha pesticide poisoning, 12 godowns raided

By: Pradip Maitra

 A farmer sprays pesticide in the cotton field at Pandharkawada in Maharashtra. (HT File Photo)

Against the backdrop of deaths of over 45 farmer following pesticide poisoning in Vidarbha, the Quality Control of state Agriculture Department on Wednesday seized pesticides, worth of Rs 14.31-crore from Akola in western Vidarbha.

According to available information, the quality control sleuths of Akola, accompanied by a team of Agriculture commissionerate, Pune, raided 12 different godowns of pesticide companies and sealed those stocked and prevented their sales.

At least 45 farmers died from the suspected pesticide poisoning in Vidarbha since August this year and most of the deaths were reported from Yavatmal, a major cotton-growing district that has often been in the news for farmers’ suicides. They died after spraying pesticides on their Bt cotton plantations in the region.

Milind Janjal, the quality control chief of Akola Agriculture department admitted that they have raided at least 12 pesticide godowns in the district and sealed the stock to prevent further sale.

The Maharashtra State Agriculture Mission chairman Kishore Tiwari demanded a ban on chemical farming and encourage organic farming in the region. Tiwari, who is camping in Yavatmal after the incident, dubbed the entire episode as “genocide” and demanded to book the concerned multi-national manufacturers and concerned department, in this regard.

The agro-mission chairman claimed that 48 farmers died of poisonous pesticides, including 22 in Yavatmal district alone while over 100 farmers, who were affected due to the pesticides, are battling their lives in different hospitals in the region. As many as nine farmers died of lethal pesticides in Akola, where the Quality Control department raided in 12 different godowns of pesticides companies, this morning.

As the death toll continues to rise, the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered an inquiry under a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the matter.

Tiwari appealed the state government to stop the use of harmful products as an immediate solution to put an end to farmer fatalities. He alleged that the vested interests of the regulatory officials in the agriculture department and administration’s negligence in this matter are the reason behind these unfortunate deaths. The victims failed to take requisite precautions and used the toxic insecticide. Insufficient knowledge of how to use it has also resulted in their tragic death, he said and demanded that the government should give compensation of Rs 5-lakh to the victims’ families.

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