The government is planning to wield complete control over fixing prices of pesticides to ensure farm chemicals remain affordable and are easily available to farmers. For this, it is likely to introduce the long-pending Pesticide Management Bill in Parliament, replacing the Insecticides Act, 1968, whose rules have become obsolete and lack deterrence against violations of law.
“The central government would constitute an authority which shall fix the price at which notified pesticides are to be sold. Currently, there is no mechanism to regulate the pricing and farmers are at the mercy of companies,” a senior agriculture ministry official told ET on condition of anonymity.
“Moreover, there would be a central pesticide board having adequate representation of farmers to take care of farmers’ interest while registering any new chemical for use.”
The new law will be in line with the international norms being practised by global leaders.
As per the proposed law, pesticide companies will have to pay a huge penalty of Rs 25,000 to Rs 50 lakh – up to a whopping 70 times than the existing provision of Rs 500-75,000 – for the violation of any rules and regulations. The new bill also proposes imprisonment of up to five years, up from two years at present.
The official said that the provision of compensation under the Consumer Protection Act has also been included in the new bill in cases where the pesticide fails to provide the expected results.
Besides, the draft bill aims to expand the scope of regulating farm chemicals, right from manufacturing to disposal.
“In the existing law, only manufacturing, sale, import, transport use and distribution of insecticides are covered,” said an official of the India Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), who is privy to the draft bill. “But in the proposed law, besides all these, export, packaging, labelling, pricing, storage, advertisement and disposal will also be regulated.”
The government has been planning to replace the Insecticides Act, 1968 for a long time. In 2008, the Pesticide Management Bill (PMB, 2008) was drafted for the first time after due consultation with stakeholders. The bill was approved by the cabinet but, after being introduced in the Rajya Sabha, it was referred to the standing committee on agriculture. The bill was again approved by the cabinet after incorporating amendments suggested by the standing committee. However, the bill was sent for a fresh review after dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
In 2015, the government again decided to examine the bill and referred it to the legislative department for vetting.
“By that time, the original PMB, 2008 had undergone substantive changes. So, it was decided to withdraw the bill and introduce a new bill – PMB, 2017 – incorporating all the amendments.