MUMBAI: With farm workers scared by the death of 35 due to pesticide poisoning, spraying in cotton farms has slowed down across the state. "There is a scare among farm labourers. There are some who are still willing to spray pesticide, but are asking for huge amounts," said an agriculture officer from Vidarbha.
Officials from Marathwada agreed. They said farm labourers are paid according to the number of
gallons of pesticide they spray. "They can safely spray 10-12 gallons a day depending on the size of the farm and density of the crops. But to earn more, a lot of them end up spraying more than the prescribed amount," said the agriculture official.
The slowing down could hurt cotton farmers as the crop is most vulnerable to pests at the fag end of its cycle. If the issue is not sorted out, cotton farmers across the state may be staring at huge crop losses due to pest. "There is reluctance among farm labourers to carry on with spraying. It has been affected considerably," said Vijay Jawandhia, farmer activist and a cotton farmer from Wardha.
The issue is significant since Maharashtra is the largest cotton growing state in the country. Nearly 41lakh hectares is under cotton, nearly 35% of the total cultivable area in the state. About 96% farmers use BGII Bt cotton seeds for cultivation, the one which is failing to keep pink bollworm, a major pest, at bay.
The agriculture department, with the public health department, will start health check-up camps at the tehsil-level to screen all farmers and labourers in Yavatmal from Monday. It has issued aset of guidelines to try and prevent further cases of poisoning.