Anupam Verma, the head of the government committee formed to review the usage of banned pesticides in India, said that the country cannot stop using pesticides, and it is the farmers’ responsibility to be careful, Firstpost reported on Tuesday.
His comments come at a time when nearly 50 farmers are believed to have died after inhaling toxic insecticide fumes sprayed in farms in Maharashtra. The highest toll was in the Yavatmal district, where 19 farmers died. Deaths were also registered in Akola, Amravati, Buldana, Nagpur and Bhandara.
On October 14, the Maharashtra government had constituted a seven-member Special Investigation Team to inquire into the deaths, and told to submit a report within three weeks.
In an interview to the news website, Verma, a former national professor at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, said that farmers must be careful of their protective gear and concentration while spraying.
The Anupam Verma Committee was created in July 2013 to review 66 pesticides that have been banned in other countries but are still used widely in India. Verma said that monocrotophos, an insecticide that reportedly caused at least 12 deaths in Yavatmal, is among 13 pesticides set to be banned in 2018.
When asked for his opinion on the deaths in Maharashtra, Verma said that many companies often manufacture pesticides and release them without any regulations. Though this may be a reason for the deaths, he added that at times, farmers are in the wrong. “I have seen farmers sitting on the back of tractors and spraying openly without any protection for themselves,” Verma said.
However, just spraying would not have killed so many people at a time, he said, adding that there were antidotes available. “There is a possibility that they have been using highly concentrated portions and must have taken no precautions at all,” Verma said. “No deaths can occur with prescribed usage.”