Indian agriculture department on alert for banned pesticides

Alarmed by the death of farmers and labourers in Maharashtra due to pesticide poisoning, the state agriculture department has strengthened its inspection squads, especially in border districts, to put a curb on traffic of banned pesticides. The district collectors have been asked to head these squads, as their powers as executive magistrates would be vital for initiating legal procedures against transporters and dealers of banned pesticides. The issue topped the agenda in a recent meeting of the district collectors convened by the chief minister.

"The raids have now been intensified and our squads have already cracked down on banned products in Idukki. Banned pesticides are being transported across the borders, especially from Tamil Nadu," said A M Sunilkumar, director, agriculture. The inspection on border posts, however, is still a tricky affair, he said, pointing at a new modus operandi where traffickers smuggle banned pesticides into Kerala in the form of ingredients in separate containers.

The squads will also be conducting regular raids at plantations for banned pesticides. Kerala government has already imposed a ban on 17 pesticides, majority of them labelled 'red', besides prescribing restrictive use of seven others.

Another major step mooted to tackle the menace is to turn fertiliser and pesticide sale outlets in the state into farmer-friendly shops, for which the department will provide financial assistance to shop owners. "The shops will have on display the recommended products and additional information on dosage, intended to create awareness among farmers," said Janardhanan S, additional director of agriculture in charge of pesticide control.

Read more at The Times of India (Salim Joseph)

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