The Pesticides Management Bill 2020, that was tabled in the Rajya Sabha earlier this year, was billed to reform the agriculture and pesticides sectors, by supplanting the Insecticides Act 1986, and promote ‘Make in India’ and Ease of Doing business.
The Prime Minister has long championed doubling farmers’ income and a similar effort was made in 2016, when a committee, under the leadership of Ashok Dalwai, the erstwhile Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, sought to shape the vision of empowering the farmer. Deliberations with farmers, industry representatives and key stakeholders went on for over two days with the intent of taking the agriculture sector to new heights.
However, the Pesticides Management Bill (PMB) in its current form does not reflect any of the recommendations of the Dalwai Committee. Why is it so? To make the matter worse, the Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha without due consultation with farmers.
The PMB seeks to discourage export of agro-chemicals that enjoy favour abroad due to their price and quality. This would prove to be detrimental to the economy, as the country will lose out on foreign exchange and the potential to generate employment. Moreover, the PMB does not require registration of any technical grade pesticide before any of its formulations are registered in India, resulting in unfair advantage to unregulated imported formulations from unapproved sources.
Indian formulation manufacturers, on the other hand, are required to source technical grade pesticides from approved sources only. The Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) has allowed the use of low-grade technical formulations to be imported for sale in India, which will end up monopolising the market due to a lack of domestic products. How does this promote ‘Make in India’?
Further, the PMB mandates every farmer to procure prescriptions. For example, Emamectin Benzoate used to be imported and sold at ₹10,000 per kg by Syngenta, but was later manufactured by domestic companies and sold at ₹300/kg. This would put immense pressure on farmers, as they would be coerced into shelling out more money to purchase expensive formulations. How does this promote the vision of doubling farmers’ income?
In India, farmers’ crop yield losses are 15-25 per cent due to weeds, pests, and diseases. The Bill does not have any provisions for use of pesticides during an emergency — for example, when ‘invasive insect species’, such as fall armyworm (on maize) and desert locusts, move outside their natural habitat. Under the PMB, the sale or usage of a pesticide can only take place after its registration with the Registration Committee.
One way the PMB can be changed to benefit the farmer is to ensure that all instructions on pesticide packages are in regional language and easily visible.
There is also the need to formulate a review committee, consisting of independent members from reputed institutions like the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology.
The role of the Registration Committee must be limited to data and registration, as the technical know-how lies with the agricultural scientists who can be involved in the review committee.
The Bill is detrimental to the farmer and agriculture. There is need for wider consultation and farmers need to be a part of it.
The writer is President, Bharatiya Krishak Samaj
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