District-wise number of pesticide poisoning deaths in Amravati Divn
District Patients Deaths
Buldana 161 Nil
Akola 275 10
Washim 17 Nil
Amravati 196 02
Yavatmal 1,075 21
Total 1,724 33
Blaming the victim appears to be the case in the episode of pesticide poisoning deaths. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) report released in public domain by the State Government blames farmers/labourers for ‘carelessness’ in handling pesticides.
The SIT report blames farmers for mixing different pesticides in ‘unscientific manner’, spraying pesticides ‘without wearing protective gear’, etc. Also, it has recommended to fix the responsibility on farmer/farm-owner concerned to provide protective kit to a person engaged in spraying of pesticides.
The report observes that due to high growth of cotton plants, farmers had to hold sprayers above their shoulder which resulted in they themselves inhaling reverse-sprays of pesticides. At many places, farmers sprayed pesticides through the day for three to four days in a row instead of in morning or late afternoon hours. High heat witnessed in September resulted in poisonous fumes of pesticides. And, farmers/labourers who took to spraying pesticides, did so without wearing protective gear including clothes, mask, goggles, hand-gloves, cap, shoes, apron etc. This increased the risk of poisoning, it added.
Further, SIT has blamed the farmers for mixing various pesticides in an ‘unscientific manner’, without any recommendation from agencies concerned, using their own experience, and on the advise of agricultural input sellers. This led to creation of new poison, with an increase in concentration of the mixture. At many places, SIT observed, it came to fore that unrecommended mixture of Fipronil (40 per cent) and Imidacloprid (40 per cent) were found to have been used by farmers.
This is very surprising, given the fact that farmers are not supposed to know ‘science’ behind the pesticides but the companies and input sellers are expected to make them aware of scientific aspects of pesticides and caution them about mixing various pesticides. Still, SIT has blamed the farmers.
The SIT has also stated that farmers/labourers increased the risk of poisoning by not bathing after spraying, not changing clothes used for spraying, using the same clothes while spraying, consuming tobacco/gutkha/kharra or smoking without washing hands. At many places, farmers/labourers are illiterate and they do not know about degree of risk. Besides, the agencies concerned made an attempt to make the farmers/labourers aware of precautions to be taken while spraying, only after several lives had been lost in Yavatmal district.
As per the SIT report, the responsibility to provide protective kit to the person engaged in spraying of pesticides should rest with farm-owner concerned. If a person engaged in spraying suffers from poisoning, first aid should be provided immediately. Only a person who has been given fitness certificate by Health Department should be engaged in pesticide spraying. If a person without fitness certificate is found spraying pesticides, SIT has recommended that he should be booked under Section 309 (attempt to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
If such a person is employed to spray pesticide, the farm-owner concerned should be booked under Section 304 (culpable homicide) of IPC, it has added.
SIT recommends ICU in Yavatmal, Akola GMCs
Finding that there was lack of well-equipped Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to deal with cases of pesticide poisoning in Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College and Hospital in Yavatmal and also Government Medical College (GMC) and Hospital in Akola, the SIT has recommended to the State Government to start ICU at these two places.
Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College and Hospital in Yavatmal did not have an ICU dedicated to deal with cases of pesticide poisoning despite the fact that there were 434 patients in 2016-17, and 886 in 2017-18, the special investigation team has mentioned in its report. It also lacked facility to conduct Cholinestrase test required for diagnosis of organophosphate compound. Hence, only symptomatic treatment was given to affected persons, and no specific treatment could be given to them. Against this backdrop, it has recommended, the Government should provide 30-bedded and 20-bedded well-equipped ICU respectively at Yavatmal and Akola GMCs. Also, five-bedded well-equipped ICU should be started at Wani and Pusad sub-district hospitals.
Further, a Toxicology Lab should be started at Yavatmal GMC, and also a Centre of Excellence should be set up there regarding poisoning cases, states the SIT report.