Since July, over 1,000 farmers of Yavatmal in east Maharashtra have suffered from a toxic chemical exposure after spraying pesticides on the cotton crop. There have been fatalities too, with 23 farmers succumbing to “toxic pesticides” so far.
How did it happen?
The farmers in Yavatmal mostly grow the genetically modified ‘BT cotton,’ considered pest-resistant. But according to Ramdas Vadai, a farmer in Manoli village, the cotton plants grew unusually tall this year, up to 6 feet, and attracted pests. While spraying pesticides above their head, farm workers inhaled some pesticide particles. Some farmers said the lack of rain this year may have contributed to the growth of the cotton plant as it received more fertilizer.
The post-mortem reports of the deceased farmers showed they had inhaled organophosphorus, a chemical compound used in pesticides, which resulted in respiratory failure.
What were the lapses?
Most of the farmers and farm hands rarely cover their mouth and nose while spraying, a reason cited by some officials for the infection. However, many farmers claimed they had been spraying pesticides for decades, but only this year it caused infection and deaths.
When did it come to light?
Farmers of the region had been flocking to hospital since the beginning of July in various parts of the district, but the issue came to light in the last week of September when the Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swawlamban Mission (VNSSM), the task force of the State government on farm distress, issued press statements informing the media about the spate of deaths.
How did the government react?
The Devendra Fadnavis government swung into action only after the media began reporting the deaths and Opposition parties started raising the issue. The government constituted a seven-member Special Investigation Team to inquire into the deaths and announced Rs. 2 lakh in compensation to the families of the deceased. The SIT has been given three weeks to submit its report.
Courtesy: The Hindu