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Maharashtra: 20 farmers in Yavatmal die due to pesticide poisoning, more than 700 in hospital

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At least 20 farmers in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district, which falls under drought-prone Vidarbha region, have died allegedly after inhaling poisonous pesticides.

A farmer leader alleged that more than 700 farmers have been hospitalised while 25 have lost vision due to infection caused by spraying pesticides. “Farmers are getting no relief, instead they are losing their lives like this. We will drag this matter to the court,” said Devanand Pawar, a farmer leader.

Chairman of Maharashtra government-run Vasantrao Nail Sheti Swavlamban Mission (VNSSM) Kishor Tiwari said an investigation will be carried out into the reports of pesticide poisoning and if chemicals are found to be toxic beyond the permissible limit, their use can be banned.

“Farmers are not taking necessary precautions. They should cover their faces and avoid spraying when there is intense heat,” said the VNSSM chief. VNSSM, a task force on agriculture, proposes to provide new crop loans to all farmers in 14 farmer suicide-prone districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada regions in the state.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE FARMER DEATHS IN YAVATMAL DISTRICT OF MAHARASHTRA:

On Friday, Maharashtra agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar admitted failure on part of the district administration for not informing the state government about the alarming situation of pesticide poisoning in Yavatmal, which falls under the drought-prone Vidarbha region.

“I learnt about the incident from media reports. I have instructed all the concerned officers to act immediately. There was failure on part of the district administration to inform the state government,” Fundkar said after visiting Manoli village where a farmer died of pesticide poisoning on September 23.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the farmers who died due to alleged pesticide poisoning.

Calling the deaths unfortunate, the agriculture minister said that a probe has been ordered under additional chief secretary (home) to look into the matter and submit the report to the government within 15 days.

“We will cancel the licenses of guilty companies which marketed the unauthorised pesticides in the market,” the minister said and added that a complaint would be filed against them if found guilty.

The minister said that protective kits are being provided to farmers and officials have been asked to ensure such kits are being used by farmers.

The Bombay High Court has issued a notice to senior officials of the Maharashtra government on a petition seeking an end to sale of harmful pesticides which allegedly resulted in the death of farmers in Yavatmal.

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court asked chief secretary, secretary of the agriculture department, Commissioner of Agriculture (Pune) and district collector of Yavatmal to reply by October 13 on the petition by Anand Narayan Jammu, a social worker.

The petition mentioned that 19 farmers and farm labourers took ill and died after being exposed to pesticides during spraying on cotton crop in the past one month and sought a compensation of Rs 20 lakh for families of the deceased and Rs 10 lakh for those affected by pesticide poisoning.

The Opposition attacked the Devendra Fadnavis government for its “insensitive attitude”. Leader of opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “The state government and the bureaucrats should be squarely held responsible for the large-scale homicide and FIR should be filed against the guilty”.

(with inputs from PTI)

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