Stricter penalties, more power for states in draft pesticide bill
New Delhi: A new draft bill on regulating pesticides, released by the centre, proposes an increase in penalties on violators and gives more power to state governments to take action against them.
The Pesticides Management Bill, 2017, which seeks to replace the Insecticides Act of 1968, also puts in place detailed clauses for registration of new molecules, includes a broader category of offences and the provision for paying compensation to farmers. The draft, released on 19 February, is open for public comments for 15 days.
Among the bill’s stated objectives are ensuring availability of quality pesticides, minimizing the contamination of agricultural commodities by pesticide residue, and creating awareness among users regarding safe and judicious use of pesticides.
The draft comes in the wake of several pesticide-related deaths in recent months.
According to the bill, the maximum punishment for violation (such as sale of prohibited or spurious pesticides) is a penalty of up to Rs50 lakh and up to five years’ imprisonment. Earlier, the punishment was limited to Rs2,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment.
Further, the bill has tightened the guidelines for registration and licensing of new molecules. It allows provisional registration of new pesticides in India in case of “national exigency” for a period of two years.
According to the draft, state governments have to report all cases of poisoning to the centre on a quarterly basis and states can also ban chemical pesticides for up to six months. Currently, states can ban a chemical for up to two months.
The proposed bill provides for paying compensation to the affected farmers or users under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It also says that anyone who “uses” a pesticide contravening provisions under the Act can face punishment.
“Since the term ‘user’ is not defined under the bill, the responsibility for improper use may fall on farmers,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of farm policy advocacy group Association for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture. “A failure of the draft bill is that it does not keep safety as a central provision; instead it places efficacy and pest control as its primary goals.”
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