In the last one year, the deaths of farmers due to pesticide poisoning have come down from 22 to 0 in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. But, how did it happen? The Indian Express reports that the government had distributed at least 28,000 safety kits — masks, gloves and synthetic aprons — free of cost in Yavatmal as part of its initiative to bring down the effect of pesticides on farmers while spraying it on cotton crops.
The report suggests that there was a pattern of deaths due to pesticide poisoning across the state’s cotton fields including in Yavatmal, Buldana, Akola, Washim, Wardha and Amravati in Vidarbha. At least 62 deaths were reported from these districts last year.
Government officials claim that the number had come down as a result of their awareness drive. Speaking to IE, Subhash Katkar, who heads the quality control section of the state agriculture department, said that Maharashtra used to witness 30-60 deaths of farmers on an average every year due to pesticides but only two deaths this year “stand out as a disaster management landmark”.
“We started the awareness drive in villages well in advance. The farmers came forward when they experienced symptoms of the ailment. Timely treatment saw the patients recover. We had also approached manufacturers to participate in the process,” Katkar added.
According to the report, a total of 507 patients were admitted last year from Yavatmal, while the count was 116 this time. Yavatmal District Collector Rajesh Deshmukh said: “We opened dedicated wards in government medical facilities with dedicated staff to ensure that patients were attended to in a focused manner.”
Not just government efforts but a dip in attacks by insect pink bollworm is also a key factor in this whole story. Speaking on this, farm activist Vijay Jawandhia said that the credit for this turnaround should go to nature and the farmers.
“The credit goes to nature because there were hardly any bollworm attacks this year. Having grown wiser from last year’s experience, the farmers took adequate precautions, too,” he said.