Cotton cultivator deaths in Maharashtra due to pesticides or not, here is what experts say

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New Delhi | Published: October 9, 2017 10:25:40 AM

It seems that the mystery behind the deaths of cotton cultivators in Maharashtra might take a little time to resolve. After the death toll scaled up to 32 on Sunday, different explanations can be heard from different voices.

cotton cultivators death in Maharashtra, farmer death in Maharsahtra, Vijay Waghmare, Subhash Nagre, Indian Express, news, latest news, India newsCotton cultivators in Maharashtra (Source: PTI)

It seems that the mystery behind the deaths of cotton cultivators in Maharashtra might take a little time to resolve. After the death toll scaled up to 32 on Sunday, different explanations can be heard from different voices. As per an Indian Express report, the experts of cotton cultivation have blamed it on the combined impact of factors like humidity, spraying of pesticide cocktails and use of a new kind of spraying machine. However, the acting director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Vijay Waghmare doesn’t abide by the theory. He said, “The Bt cotton crop at this time is standing at least one or two feet taller than previous years and with heavy foliage…. So, the farmers sprayed at head level. The area under cotton, too, has grown from about 37 lakh hectares to about 42 lakh hectares in the Maharashtra. Also, from the past 4-5 years, farmers have been extending the crop beyond December right till February-March to get extra quintals,” as per an Indian Express report.

He further added that farmers have been using pesticides beyond the prescribed limit. “It has been noticed that farmers are spraying more rounds than advisable.”

CICR scientists, state officials and Krishi Vigyan Kendra scientists have visited the areas of Yavatmal that reported farmer deaths or illness. They are due to submit their findings to the government,” said Waghmare, as per an Indian Express report. Keshav Kranthi, a former CICR head who now leads the technical information service of the International Cotton Advisory Committee while clearing that he hasn’t seen the situation on ground, said that extra height of the plant, mist spraying by a new kind of sprayer and cocktails of insecticides seems to be the cause of the problem. As per an Indian Express report, Kranthi, who is also an entomologist, said, “This time rains were good so plant growth was good. The more the foliage, the more is the attack by sucking pests. Over the past 4-5 years, pests have developed resistance to cotton, so farmers have been using cocktails of many insecticides.”

Subhash Nagre, the joint director (agriculture) in the Amravati division of which Yavatmal district has a different explanation of the cause. He said, “Farmers have used power pumps more this time. These pumps can spray up to 10 acres per day as against normal sprayers which spray up to two acres a day. For normal sprayers, the farmer needs to fill in the tank every two hours so he gets a break, but with power pumps, he manages to spray in one go. The new kind of pump sprayers have fine holes and spray like the mist that easily envelopes the person’s body,” as per an Indian Express report. According to Yavatmal collector Rajendra Deshmukh, the problem hasn’t popped up overnight but it was there since last year. According to the report, he said, “Our record shows that six persons had died due to the same reason last year too,” indicating that the phenomenon may have started last year and was probably not taken seriously.”

As per the report, since July 19, as many as 18 farmers have died in Yavatmal and 14 in surrounding districts in the cotton growing belt of the state. Yavatmal police have initiated criminal action against five pesticide sellers who didn’t have the licence to sell the products. “We have registered FIRs under the Insecticides Act,” Yavatmal Superintendent of Police M Rajkumar said, as per the report.

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