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New Delhi:  The National Human Rights Commission ( NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra several farmers had to be hospitalized during the last three months due to an infection caused by spraying of a pesticide on the cotton crops. Many have, reportedly, died, while many others are serious.

The Government of Maharashtra has announced an inquiry into the deaths of 18 Yavatmal farmers and farm labourers. The State Agriculture Minister has said that the farmers have not been following the directions for wearing gloves and protective clothing. The government has decided to distribute free of cost “masks” to them. The State Government has also announced compensation of Rs 12 lakh for the families of the victims.

The NHRC has issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, and the Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The Chief Secretary of the State Government has also been directed to ensure that the best treatment is provided free of cost to the farmers, who are either admitted to the hospital(s) or taking treatment as an out-patient. He has been asked to inform about the steps taken to stop recurrence of such incidents and the action against the guilty officers. The Commission also expects the details of the ex-gratia relief paid to the victims and rehabilitation of the aggrieved families along with the policy perspective on the issue, according to an NHRC release.

The Commission has observed that most of the farmers in the country are not adequately literate and are relying on the government agencies for the safe use of the agricultural products and the ancillary techniques. The victim farmers have fallen prey to the callous and negligent attitude of the government departments. It appears that due to the lack of proper awareness about such a complicated technology for spraying pesticides on cotton crops, the farmers’ Rights to Life and Livelihood have been grossly violated, it said.





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