The NHRC has issued a notice to the Maharashtra government and the Union ministry of agriculture over reports of death and injury suffered by several farmers due to infection, caused by spraying of a pesticide on cotton crops in Yavatmal. The Commission in its notice to the state’s chief secretary, and the secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, has sought a detailed report in four weeks, the NHRC said today. The National Human Rights Commission’s move comes in the wake of media reports that in Yavatmal district, “several farmers had to be hospitalised, during the last three months, due to an infection, caused by spraying of a pesticide on cotton crops. Many have, reportedly, died, even as others are serious”.
The Commission has observed that most of the farmers in the country are “not adequately literate” and are relying on government agencies for the safe use of the agricultural products and the ancillary techniques. “The victim farmers have fallen prey to the callous and negligent attitude of the government departments. It appears that due to the lack of proper awareness about such a complicated technology for spraying pesticides on cotton crops, the farmers’ rights to life and livelihood have been grossly violated,” the NHRC said.
Reportedly, the government of Maharashtra has announced an inquiry into the deaths of 18 Yavatmal farmers and farm labourers, the rights panel said. “The state’s agriculture minister has said that the farmers have not been following the directions for wearing gloves and protective clothing. The government has decided to distribute free-of-cost ‘masks’ to them. The state government has also announced compensation of Rs 12 lakh to the families of the victims,” the NHRC said in a statement. The chief secretary of the state government has also been directed 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.
“He (chief secretary) has been asked to inform about the steps taken to stop recurrence of such incidents and the action against the guilty officers,” the statement said. The Commission also expects the details of the ex gratia relief paid to the victims and rehabilitation of the aggrieved families along with the policy perspective on the issue, it added.