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21st February – Pesticides Management Bill, 2020

The Pesticides Management Bill, 2020, approved by the Cabinet for introduction in Parliament, is unlikely to live up to the expectations of stakeholders in the agro-chemicals sector despite having been drafted after prolonged deliberations over 12 years, and inputs from the parliamentary standing committee.

Need for legislation –

  • The need for putting in place an effective legal regulatory regime for the pesticides sector has been felt for long because the archaic Insecticides Act of 1968 has proved incapable of doing so.
  • The pesticides industry has grown haphazardly, resulting in the emergence of many fake, poor-quality and highly perilous chemicals.
  • Though only around 300 pesticides have been formally registered for production and use in the country, the number of chemical formulations in circulation is far larger because of the production and sale of unregistered molecules.
  • Several dangerous pesticides banned abroad continue to be used in India, causing deaths and grievous injuries to hundreds of farm workers every year.
  • The new law is expected to deter the manufacture and sale of such hazardous chemicals and formulate stricter norms for approving new molecules.

What is the issue?

In a bid to shield the farmers’ interests, the Bill seems to have willy-nilly tilted the scales against the industry. The pesticide industry has favoured decriminalisation of agro-input manufacturing by removing the applicability of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, arguing that it creates a negative investment climate.

Analysing the issues

  • To ensure speedier compensation for losses suffered by farmers due to spurious, substandard or ineffective pesticides, the Bill moots setting up a dedicated fund of Rs 50,000 crore, raised from the fines charged from the defaulting pesticide companies and contributions from the Central and state governments.
  • The penalties for the supply of prohibited or poor-quality pesticides are proposed to be increased to Rs 50 lakh and between three and five years of imprisonment. At present, these are pitched at a measly Rs 2,000 fine and a jail term of up to three years.
  • The production, trade, and use of pesticides are sought to be regulated through a central pesticides board comprising representatives from the Centre, states and farmers.
  • Promotion of environment and health-friendly organic pesticides is among the other notable features of this Bill.

Way forward –

  • The Bill appears to be wanting in laying adequate stress on checking pesticide residues in farm products which pose grave health hazards for human beings, livestock, and wildlife.
  • The indiscriminate, as also injudicious, use of pesticides is causing widespread air, soil and water pollution.
  • The proposed law should not end at ensuring the availability of less-hazardous pesticides but go a step further to oblige the farmers to use them cautiously and in the recommended manner to avoid leaving any traces in the farm produce.

SourceBusiness Standard

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