The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre as to why chemical pesticides that have been banned by other countries should not be banned in India and what can be done to phase out these harmful pesticides in a time-bound manner while simultaneously promoting organic farming. A bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra issued notices to the ministries of chemicals and fertilizers and agriculture and farmers welfare, Central Insecticides Board and others on a PIL seeking ban not only on such chemical pesticides but also their advertisements and unacceptable practices of marketing and promotion. It also wants a direction to the authorities to make it mandatory to follow the precautionary principle before registering any pesticide for use or manufacture and conduct an alternative assessments before registering any pesticide.
Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners led by Kavitha Kuruganti from Bangalore, argued that there are 93 types of pesticides which are banned abroad but not in India. “There are many pesticides which banned in India but still used blatantly. Moreover, the spraying of herbicides are not only entering our food chain, but also depleting crop production, thus leading to farmers’ suicide,” he argued. He said that an expert committee should be set up to chalk out a roadmap for phasing out all chemical pesticides in a time-bound manner, preferably within 5 years, and for making recommendations to assist farmers during the transition before they convert to organic farms and also how the Central and the state governments will implement the recommendations of the panel.
Seeking the enforcement of the right to health of farmers, farm workers as well as consumers as held to be as part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, the petition said that the Centre and state governments have a duty to the farmers and farm workers to ensure that they live healthy lives in a clean and healthy environment. It alleged that the governments have turned a blind eye to the health crisis being faced by its citizens, especially farmers. “The Central and state governments have apparently ignored reports of a large number of cases of acute poisoning due to pesticides which resulted in deaths, hospitalisations and subsequent ill health,” it added.