Mumbai: At least 20 farmers have died due to poisoning in the last one month after spraying pesticides in their cotton field. Over 1,800 farmers have been affected by the inhalation of these lethal pesticides since August, according to The Hindu.
The first death was reported in early August, according to reports.
According to a report in The Indian Express, at least 800 are still in hospital, of which some have lost their eye sight while others are in the intensive care unit (ICU) in critical condition.
Five of the hospitalised farmers are on life support systems, The Hindu reported.
They were admitted in the district hospital in Yavatmal, about 670 km from Mumbai, with symptoms like blurred vision, nausea, skin rashes, headaches and dizziness.
Brahmanand Adik, 39, was also exposed to poison and had temporary loss of vision, according to a report in NDTV.
"I had sprayed insecticide that day. Then my head started aching and I couldn't see clearly. After that I found myself in the hospital," Adik told NDTV.
Agrarian experts are of the opinion that the new spray machines and norms of the Central Insecticide Board are responsible for the deaths.
"Most of the new molecules available in the market don't have specific antidotes mentioned. It has been written on most of the pesticides that there is no specific antidote but treat symptomatically," Dr Sharad Nimbalkar, former Vice Chancellor of Dr Panjabrao Deshmukh Agriculture University, said.
"The district administration didn't inform the state government about the alarming situation on time, "Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar told PTI.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had on Tuesday ordered an enquiry into the matter and announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the kin of each deceased farmer.
Five Krishi Seva Kendra owners have also been booked for selling pesticides without protective gear, according to the report.
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday issued notices on a petition seeking criminal action against the officials concerned and pesticide firms.
The government is now taking efforts to regulate the sale of pesticides, ensuring that the pesticides are cleared after safety checks and also making sure that the farmers are using protective gear while spraying insecticides.