Draft Pesticide Management Bill-2017 not comprehensive enough to address issues on pesticides in India
In its comments submitted to joint secretary (Plant Protection), PAN India presented a detailed deliberation on problems, concerns and challenges on the Bill.
Further PAN India demanded transparency and comprehensive consultation process before the bill is finalized.
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India, a non-profit organisation exclusively working on pesticides related issues complained that the draft Pesticide Management Bill 2017 is not comprehensive enough to address the multitude of concerns about pesticides in India. The Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare made the draft bill available to stakeholders/public during the second half of February 2018, and sought comments within 15 days. While PAN India welcomed the initiative by the Union Government in seeking comments from stakeholders on the Bill, a critical review by it shows that the draft bill is rudimentary and basic without any serious content that addresses regulatory concerns and challenges over hazardous poisons. It complained that unfortunately the draft Pesticide Management Bill 2017 is almost similar to its 2008 version. Dr. D. Narasimha Reddy, Director of PAN India says, “this draft 2017 bill is almost similar to the 2008 version, which was rejected by farmers groups. The core principle of active regulation is missing in this draft, even while it ignores the need for price control, knowledge-based, participatory and sustained monitoring of toxicity and impacts. It merely lays down steps of registration that transition from paper-based procedure to digital system, without adding any facilitating provision for transparency, consultative and sharing mechanisms."
PAN India feels that it is high time for India to update its pesticide legislation and regulatory mechanisms with the objective of responding to its commitments made under Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. It is a fact that about 50 year old Insecticides Act 1968, together with Insecticides Rules 1971, that govern pesticide registration is unable to respond to various hazardous situations, toxicity implications and socio-economic issues thrown up by the harmful effects of the dangerous agro-chemicals. Lack of a 360 degree regulation of toxic pesticides has probably resulted in numerous pesticide poisoning incidents over the years, including the latest 2017 poisonings and deaths reported from Yavathmal in Maharashtra and Perambalur in Tamilnadu. This apart poisonous gas leak near Tughlaqabad Depot affecting innocent school children in Delhi among others calls for an improved pesticide regulatory framework with stricter and no-nonsense implementation in India.
Further, PAN India draws public attention to the process followed by the government on developing the bill is short on transparenncy. A stakeholders meeting with limited invitation was conducted on 11th January, 2018 to discuss the bill. Intimation about this consultation meeting was not widely circulated. However, it appreciates access to the minutes of this meeting on the web site of Department Of Agriculture Cooperation & Farmers Welfare. Be that as it may, it is interesting to note that only 12 State governments (including Andaman & Nicobar), out of 29, provided their inputs.
PAN India believes that a democratic process has to be followed when the stakes are high in regulating a sector that deals with dangerous chemicals such as pesticides. Consultations on the draft Bill have to be wider, inclusive with appropriate timelines and schedules. PAN India argues that more time, atleast 90 days, needs to be given for stakeholders to give their feedback. Current,15 days time period given for stakeholder comments is grossly insufficient.
PAN India stresses that the Pest Management Bill-2017 should be within the framework of international guidelines such as International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, the respective Guidelines on Highly Hazardous Pesticides, and Guidance on Pest and Pesticide Management-Policy Development put forth by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World health Organization (WHO) as well as other relevant international conventions, protocols and treaties related to pesticides and hazardous substances. The process of registration and review of pesticides must have to undergo a comprehensive public health risk and environmental risk assessments, need assessment, efficiency assessment, assessment of alternatives, etc. as per the respective guidelines.
Sri. Jayakumar Chelaton, Director of PAN India said, "Pesticide Management Bill 2017 is not inclusive and does not take cognizance of horrible experiences of Indian farmers and general people who are impacted by the toxicity, which is growing in tandem with the profits. Indian government representation in international conventions such as Rotterdam and Stockholm is at best based on adhocism. The proposed Central Pesticides Board does not have any function that links it to this process"
While the title of the draft bill says it is ‘a bill to regulate the import, manufacture, export, storage, sale, transport, distribution, quality and use of pesticides’, inside the content does not address the alarming scenario of pesticide use in India. It rather seems to promote or legalize various industry practices. PAN India in its research has established that pesticides use approved by CIB&RC and recommended by State Agriculture Departments or Universities as well as Commodity boards is not compliance with the specific use a particular pesticide is approved for. There is wide gap in registered purpose, recommended usage, package of practices and field applications. Sri. Dileep Kumar, Programme Coordinator of PAN India added "the link between package of practices and actual usage pattern of pesticides was not regulated before. This bill does not update itself on this aspect".
PAN India also feels that there should not be a provision in the bill such as ‘Protection of action taken in good faith’. Such a provision should not be allowed because, more than enough scientific and technical data and expertise available nowadays that should be consulted properly before arriving at a decision, especially when matters related to regulating pesticides. Regulators cannot merely make decisions based on ‘good faith’, rather it should be gone through a process based on accepted norms and standards put forth by Food and Agriculture Organisation, World health Organisation, Globally Harmonised System of Classification of Chemicals, as well as various relevant international conventions, protocols and treaties. Decision taken on good faith can be often biased, its better to rely on informed decision-making process.
PAN India believes that registration and use of highly hazardous pesticides should not be allowed in India. There is enough scientific data on their potential to cause acute as well as chronic human health and environmental impacts. The chronic ill effects of pesticides often are unable to cure at all, forcing the victims to lead a miserable life. Considering this factor, India needs to ban all highly hazardous pesticides and replace them with non-chemical alternatives. Ecological agriculture is the good option to move forward in this regard.
PAN India demands a proper democratic consultation process to make comprehensive pesticide regulatory legislation in India so as to safeguard its people from dangerous effects of pesticides as well as to protect environment from contamination and pollution. Provisions on regulating pesticides over their entire life cycle, polluter pays principle, liability, etc. need to be part of the Pesticide Management Bill.
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