Aditi Tandon, Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 20. Following directions from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in respect of growing cancer incidence on account of indiscriminate use of pesticides in Punjab, the state government has banned the manufacture, import and use of pesticides injurious to health.
Responding to the NHRC orders, the Punjab Government has informed the commission that it has “banned the manufacture, import and use of pesticides which are very injurious to health, withdrawn registration of some such pesticides and restricted the use of other hazardous pesticides.”
The state also told the commission that it was educating farmers on the judicious use of pesticides. The state’s response follows NHRC’s suo motu cognizance of reports that excessive use of pesticides was causing cancer among the farmers of Punjab’s Malwa region who had to travel to Bikaner in Rajasthan for treatment.
“The NHRC was concerned that close to 100 cancer patients were going daily from Bathinda to Bikaner by train just because they managed free treatment only across the border,” the commission said. On the directions of the commission, Punjab sent its first report on September 20, 2011, but it was found to be insufficient. Consequently, the NHRC asked the state for comprehensive action, including banning carcinogenic pesticides, controlling the use of less hazardous pesticides, education the farmers on the use of pesticides and conducting regular health checkups in the area.
Responding to these orders, Principal Secretary, Health, Punjab, admitted in his report, received earlier this month, that the consumption of pesticides was high in Malwa on account of the cotton crop grown there.
The report stated that during the past five years, the use of pesticide had come down with the farmers switching over to BT cotton, which required only 20 per cent pesticides as compared to other varieties.
“Farmers are being trained on judicious use of pesticides even as some dangerous pesticides have been banned or their use has been restricted. As for providing cheap treatment for cancer, the Punjab Government has started giving financial assistance to cancer patients from BPL families under the State Illness Fund,” the state government has informed the commission, which has now called for a survey of the disease.