CASES were filed against pesticide companies and Krishi Seva Kendras in the Vidarbha region after almost 35 farmers died from inhaling chemicals that were sprayed on BT cotton crops.
In the span of three months several hundred farmers were hospitalised, out of which more than 40 are in critical condition.
Kishore Tiwari, chief of Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavlamban Mission (Maharashtra state-run task force to address farmer distress), said, “After 18 farmers died due to pesticide poisoning in Yavatmal district, deaths were also registered in Akola, Amravati, Buldana, Nagpur and Bhandara districts with many patients still in critical condition in the Nagpur Medical College and Akola Medical College.” It is after he circulated the news about the spate of farmers death to the media that the state authorities have acted and initiated inquiries.
Maharastra government has initiated a Special Investigative Team (SIT) probe after the initial inquiries by the police and agricultural departments confirmed the seriousness of the situation.
So far the agro-chemical firms, named Police and Syngenta, have been booked by Maharastra police. Along with them, cases were filed against Krishi Seva Kendras (agro-input centres) for selling pesticides not recommended for the region.
“Highly Toxic and expensive pesticide ‘Police’ particularly recommended only for Sugarcane crop was sold to the farmers in a misguided manner,” Hindustan Times quoted Bijay Kumar, principal secretary, state agriculture department.
Taking suo moto cognizance of the media reports, on October 9, NHRC issued notices to the chief secretary, government of Maharashtra, and the secretary, union ministry of agriculture and farmers' welfare, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. It also directed the state’s chief secretary to “ensure that the best treatment is provided free of cost to the farmers, who are either admitted to the hospitals or taking treatment as an out-patient” while observing that “the victim farmers have fallen prey to the callous and negligent attitude of the government departments.