'Don't Have Money To Buy Protection Kits': Maharashtra Farmers On Pesticide Poisoning

The pesticide packets have instructions and precautions to be taken, however, farmers tend to ignore them because of the cost of procuring the protection kits

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A lot of farmers in Yavatmal suffered temporary vision loss after spraying pesticide.


Yavatmal, Maharashtra:  At least 20 farmers have died of pesticide poisoning in the last few weeks in Maharashtra's Yavatmal district, but the question now is how could the commonly used pesticides cause deaths? It will be clear only after the probe is completed, the government said. Viscera samples of the dead have been collected and a committee is studying ways to prevent incidence of poisoning.

The government has also provided that all the farmers will be provided protection gear to avert such tragedies.

The pesticide packets have instructions and precautions to be taken, however, farmers tend to ignore them because of the cost of procuring the protection kits. NDTV also found that Central Insecticide Board norms about using pesticides are being flouted in areas like Yavatmal, the cotton belt of the state.

Lack of options makes farmers take up whatever jobs come their way. Most farm labourers who spray pesticides make not more than Rs 250 per day. They risk their lives not knowing the harmful effects of pesticide inhalation. The protective kit comprises helmets, coats shoes and goggles. These kits costs around Rs 3,000. Most farmers can't afford them.

Avdhut Wadgule, a farm hand, said, "I don't have the money to buy goggles and socks. I don't have a helmet. I will have to spray insecticide like this only."

Over 600 farmers have been affected and many of them are recovering in the hospital. A lot of them suffered temporary vision loss. However, for families who lost their loved ones, a bleak and uncertain future awaits. 

Pooja Bandu Sonule , 15, hasn't gone to school since her father's death. Bandu Sonule, a farm labourer, died of pesticide poisoning. The family lives with their relatives.

"We took him to the hospital in Yavatmal. He was admitted on September 21 and died two days later. He died of pesticide poisoning. We had no idea about the importance of wearing protective gear before spraying pesticides," said Bandu's wife Geeta, who wonders if her daughter will ever got to school now.

Debt-ridden farmers who employ these labourers say they have no money to buy protective equipment needed.

"The farmer is already burdened with debt. He has to pay the labourer. We cannot buy the protection kits. We find it difficult to afford the spray pump as well. How will we afford the coats and helmets?" said Rohit Singh Sidhu, a farmer.

Experts say that new pumps reportedly release a lot more chemical than what is required which could be one of the reasons for the high fatalities combined with the height of the plants which have grown well due to well-timed rain this year making things worse.

There are regulations in place but the monitoring has to be stepped up, say experts.

Madan Yeravar, Guardian Minister for Yavatmal district told NDTV, "The government will ensure that from now on without these measures no labourer will go out to spray pesticide in the fields."


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